Breast cancer can cause many physical changes to your body -- chemotherapy and radiation can cause exhaustion, nerve damage, hair loss and loss of appetite, just to name a few. And then there’s a mastectomy which obviously changes the look and feel of your body.

After a mastectomy, many women suffer self-esteem and intimacy issues. Some women do not feel complete after a mastectomy and struggle with the loss of their breast and even with the look of their new breasts if they’ve opted for reconstruction. They are also concerned that their partner won’t look at them the same way as they did before their surgery and, as a result, their sex life may suffer.

So, how do you overcome any intimacy issues you and your partner may have after you have had a mastectomy?

Take a break: While you might be anxious to get back to love-making with your partner, your body needs time to heal before you engage in any sexual activity. Your doctor will tell you what guidelines to follow and when you can start to try again. There are other

aspects of intimacy that you can try in the meantime, including cuddling with your partner and massage.

Communicate: Good open communication is key in any relationship with or without cancer. However, if you are struggling with any concerns or negative feelings about your body or your libido, have a heart-to-heart talk with your partner. You might find out that your partner still wants an active sex life, but is unsure how to touch you or may have other concerns. Talking out your problems will help both of you to come up with solutions together.

Take it slow: When you finally start to engage in sexual activity again, take it slow. It will take a long time for your body to recover from treatment and surgery and movements may exacerbate any pain you may be feeling.

Talk to your doctor: Chemotherapy may affect your libido. If you find that your sex drive is low or non-existent, consider talking to your doctor. It can also cause difficulty reaching climax, pain during penetration, reduced size of the vagina and vaginal dryness. Your doctor may have medications that can help to solve some of your issues.

Consider joining a support group: If having a mastectomy has severely affected your sex life, consider attending an in-person or online support group where you can talk out your feelings with others who may have ideas or solutions. If anything, you will feel less alone.

Remember -- it can be temporary: Your body has been through some traumatic changes. Over time, it may begin to heal and your libido may come back -- and maybe better than before.

For more information, contact the Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction at 843-849-8418. They can suggest resources to help.