Sexuality and breast surgery

Breast surgery doesn't affect you being able to have sex. But your emotions might change your sexual feelings for a while. And you might worry about allowing a partner to see or touch your body.

Your emotions

Having part or all of a breast removed will be an emotional time for you. You might feel relieved that your cancer is found and removed. Maybe you will feel some grief and anger about what you have been through. And the surgery might affect your sexual feelings.

Seeing your scar

If you have a partner, you might find it helpful to take them with you for clinic visits before the operation. That way they will be prepared for how you will look after surgery.

The first milestone after surgery will be when you see your scar. It will take time to deal with your changed appearance and if you have a partner, it will affect them too. When you are both ready, you will need to show your scar.

You might prefer your doctor or nurse to be there when your partner sees the scar for the first time. They can explain how any swelling or bruising will go down and how the scar will fade with time.

Your breasts and your sex life

There is no right or wrong way to approach this. You might feel very sensitive and need time to build up your courage to be looked at or touched by your partner. Or you might need almost instant comfort and find that a loving touch relieves your fear of being rejected.

You might feel a greater loss if your breasts are very important to how you respond sexually. Surgery and radiotherapy will cause some loss of feeling in that breast.

If you had a mastectomy Open a glossary item you will have lost the feeling along with the breast. Unfortunately, this cannot be brought back and it will take time for you to mourn the loss. If you had both breasts removed (a double mastectomy) you may have an even greater sense of loss.

Your breasts might be an important part of how you and your partner are sexually aroused. You can look for other ways to achieve this together. Try stroking or massaging other sensitive parts of your body.

You could try wearing a bra or camisole in bed to help your confidence if you prefer. But equally, don't feel you have to cover up your scar if you don't want to. 

Breast reconstruction

You may be able to have more surgery to make a new breast shape. This won't bring back lost sensation, but it might help you recover from your mastectomy. Everyone is different, but talk to your surgeon if you think this would help you.

Help and support

These changes and the emotions it can bring can be difficult to cope with. It might help to talk to a partner, relative or friend. Let your nurse, specialist or GP know how you are feeling. They can let you know what help and support is available in your treatment centre or in your area. 

Some people choose to talk things through with a counsellor or therapist. Or you could contact some of the organisations that offer support and information about relationships and sexuality.

Last reviewed: 
27 Oct 2021
Next review due: 
27 Oct 2024
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    S Drageset and others
    Cancer Nursing, 2020. Volume 43, Issue 1

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    Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 2017. Volume 165, Issue 1

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