Objective Up to 40% of breast cancer survivors develop lymphedema, a chronic and sometimes disabling condition that manifests as abnormal swelling of the effected arm or hand or upper chest areas. Although the effects of lymphedema on quality of life have been well established, less well documented are the sexual experiences of breast cancer survivors with lymphedema. This study is the first to compare the sexual experiences of women with (n = 243) and without breast cancer-related lymphedema (n = 109). Methods A mixed-method design was used to explore both quantitatively and qualitatively the impact of lymphedema on participants' sexual experiences. Results Participants with breast cancer-related lymphedema reported struggles with compression garments and sexual intimacy, negative feelings involving the breast and arm, and feelings of decreased sexual desire. Conclusions Recommendations for healthcare professionals, social workers, and marriage and family therapists are offered with the aim of assisting women with breast cancer-related lymphedema and their sexual partners.
- breast cancer
- breast cancer-related lymphedema
- chronic illness
- sexual behaviour
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health