Learning you have breast cancer or the BRCA genetic mutation is a lot to handle. The thought of mastectomy is intimidating enough. Making it even more difficult to cope are the detrimental side effects, like pelvic muscle dysfunction, from chemo medications and secondary surgeries. Adverse reactions like hair loss are commonly discussed, and there are many solutions to mask or manage hair loss, like hats, wigs or scarves. However, conditions like pelvic dysfunction or vaginal dryness are not commonly discussed and can be disregarded by medical professionals who think these are unimportant consequences.
Shrugging off women’s concerns about sex and intimacy during and after breast cancer treatments with responses like, “Look at the bright side, you’re lucky to be alive,” makes too many women believe their sex life is either indefinitely on hold or gone for good. Our patients deserve better, which is why NY Breast Reconstruction Associates/Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC invited special guest Marilyn Freedman, DPT, to make our patients aware they most certainly can maintain successful sexual relationships during and after breast cancer.
On Monday, 11 July, as part of the Patient Empowerment Program: Be Informed Lecture Series, Marilyn Freedman, DPT, presented a workshop on “Managing and Overcoming Vaginal Dryness: From natural menopause or early menopause brought on by breast cancer treatment.” Dr. Freedman has over thirty years of experience helping patients suffering from pelvic, vaginal, surgical, urological, gynecological, colo-rectal and sexual dysfunction restore their balance of wellness after being challenged with complex conditions. After feeling like they were out of options, Dr. Freedman’s information gave a new sense of hope to our breast cancer patients as they learned about therapies and solutions to maintain an active sex life.
Early menopause or temporary menopause or other sexual dysfunction can happen as a result of chemo treatments, hysterectomies, or oophorectomies. For women trying to preserve some level of normalcy in their lives after diagnosis, this side effect can be very discouraging and lead them to avoid intimacy because of vaginal dryness, pain or tightening. Dr. Freedman, a certified expert in pelvic muscle dysfunction, educated the group about ways to manage the symptoms and maintain intimate relationships, such as using dilators to reduce dryness, tightening or narrowing of the vagina.
This very candid lecture was significant to our patients, especially those who have felt their concerns, symptoms have been dismissed by health professionals, those who have felt that their intimate lives would never be restored, and those who felt discomfort in addressing these issues. This is the basis of our “Be Informed” lecture series and we are delighted that so many health professionals share their time and expertise to promote understanding and hope. A special thank you to Dr. Marilyn Freedman for instilling this “hope” and for educating our patients. Here are some of the responses to her presentation:
• I was completely blown away by her presentation because I had completely buried and mourned for my sex life. I never even knew that there was a field of therapy intended to make me feel whole again.
• The workshop's content was sensitive and Dr. Freedman was quite at ease with delivering the information. I learned that I am not alone in my quest for comfortable and satisfying relations with my spouse. Many of us were there to gain insight into what to do and although the response was not what I expected, it was informative and doable.
• Very informative and a very necessary conversation that should happen more frequently! Fantastic!
-Mollie Sugarman, Clinical Director, Patient Empowerment Program
Photos: Dr. Marilyn Freedman