Dating and relationships
Whether you’re in a relationship or not, your romantic life will undoubtedly be affected by a diagnosis of breast cancer.
On this page, you'll find information about:
If you don’t have a partner, you may feel apprehensive about meeting new people and dating. You may be nervous about telling them you’ve had breast cancer, unsure when to give them this information and anxious about starting a physical relationship.
Here are some tips on dealing with dating after breast cancer:
- Remember breast cancer is not who you are. It doesn’t have to be the first thing you tell a potential date or something you need to speak about endlessly.
- Some people may be scared off if you tell them straight away that you’ve had breast cancer. Get to know the person a little first before you give them this information.
- If you’re unsure how to tell someone about your breast cancer for the first time, practice with a friend or family member. Get the tone right so that you’re not scaring your date or overwhelming them.
- If your date can’t handle the fact that you’ve had breast cancer, don’t waste energy trying to change the situation. Accept it and move on.
- Make sure friends and family know you’re looking to meet someone. Most people meet their partners through people they know so this is a good way to connect with potential dates.
- Be open to new people and new experiences. Surviving breast cancer is a tough experience. It can get you down. Try not to look inwards and withdraw, but to look outwards and be willing to connect with new people and new activities.
- Keep up a supportive circle of friends and family. Just as breast cancer does not define you, nor does having a partner. Enjoy yourself and make the most of the life you have.
You might also like to check out our information on sex after breast cancer.
If you have a partner, you may find that your physical relationship changes, that you don’t feel as able to share some feelings and emotions as you once did, or that your priorities in life have changed.
Your partner on the other hand may feel, that after treatment, everything will go back to the way it once was. Try to share your new feelings with your partner. Explain to them how things have changed for you and what that means for your relationship. You might like to visit a counsellor together to discuss some of these issues in more detail.
Remember you have both been through a trying time and a significant life event. You will both have changed and this means you may need to devote more time to your relationship to "rediscover" each other.
Your physical relationship may also change. Breast cancer and its treatment will affect your body and some women find they lose confidence after treatment, that they feel less sexy or uncomfortable in their own skin. Side effects from drug treatments may also result in a loss of libido or vaginal dryness.
If you and your partner are having issues with intimacy:
- Talk to each other about the issues you're having. Explain your feelings clearly, in a non-judgemental way. Offer suggestions as to what may help you.
- Try relaxation techniques, such as massage to help alleviate anxiety and encourage a connection between the two of you.
- Lose the focus on sexual intercourse and orgasm in the short term. Instead, focus on kissing, touching and foreplay. Let your partner know what helps in this area.
- If you suffer from vaginal dryness you might like to try a vaginal lubricant or moisturiser.
- If you are still having problems with intimacy, you and your partner may like to speak to a counsellor or sex therapist either together or separately to help work through some of these issues.
If your breast cancer treatment involves a mastectomy or other surgery, you may have concerns about body image. Sometimes dealing with changes in body image after breast cancer treatment can be more difficult for younger women to deal with.
Photos of surgery scars and mastectomies can be scary and make you feel you will never look or feel normal again. Rest assured that there are many surgical options available which can help to give you a natural body shape. Remember also, that not all women have reconstructive surgery. You may find that after going through the treatment process, this is not actually something you feel the need to do.
Your body has changed - there's no getting away from that and some women find it hard to accept their new bodies. It's important to remember that most women are not entirely happy with their bodies anyway, whether or not they've had breast cancer, so don't be too hard on yourself. Here's some tips on accepting your new body:
- Recognise that it's important you accept your new body, but acknowledge that you may need to undergo a grieving period for the loss of your breast or breasts.
- Use prostheses if these make you feel better or explore the possibility of breast reconstruction if you think this will help you.
- Make it a priority to accept your new body - gradually get used to the way you look naked now. Stand in front of the mirror and identify three positive things about your body.
- If you have trouble with your partner seeing you naked, especially when having sex, wear lingerie or something that makes you feel good about yourself.
- Wear clothes that compliment your body and make you feel good about yourself.
- Get regular exercise and focus on the things your body can do for you.
- Check out BCAC member group, Look Good Feel Better, which runs programmes for women undergoing cancer treatment to help them feel better about their physical appearance.