Life after risk-reducing breast surgery

Many women feel relieved after risk-reducing breast surgery as they know they have greatly reduced their risk of developing breast cancer. But there may also be feelings of loss and other emotions. Some women experience these feelings more than others. Your breast care nurse can support you and help you to talk through your feelings. There are also support organisations you can contact.

Breast surgery may affect how you feel about yourself sexually. It can take time to get used to changes in how you look. Talking with your partner about how you are both feeling can help you to overcome any difficulties. There’s no right or wrong time to begin having sex again. You can wait until you and your partner feel ready.

You may choose to make positive lifestyle changes to improve your general health. This may include changes to your diet, exercising more or stopping smoking. Your GP or breast care nurse can support you in doing this.

Your emotions and feelings

Risk-reducing surgery is a big step to take and it can cause many different emotions and feelings. There may be a sense of relief when the surgery is over, but it can still take some time for you to get used to your new appearance. You will already have had a lot to cope with; learning that your family has a strong history of breast cancer, and worrying about your own children and other members of your family. Some women feel the emotional effects more than others.

Many women say that their anxiety about developing breast cancer is greatly reduced by having risk-reducing breast surgery. In fact many would recommend surgery to women in a similar situation to themselves. However, they may still have feelings of loss for their previous appearance and sense of health.

There are people and organisations that can help you talk through and deal with any feelings and emotions you may have. Your breast care nurse can discuss your situation with you, and you can also contact one of the useful organisations listed on our database.

Sex after breast surgery

Having breast surgery may affect your sex life and how you see yourself as a woman (self image). This often gradually improves with time.

Try not to think that sex can’t be as important in your life as it was before the surgery. There will often be a period of adjustment for you and your partner, and with time most difficulties can be overcome.

You may feel insecure and worry whether or not your partner will still find you sexually attractive. Partners are often concerned about how to express their love physically and emotionally after a woman has had breast surgery. They may not have a problem with your changed appearance, so it can help to try to discuss it if you feel that there’s awkwardness between you.

Cuddles, kisses and massages are affectionate and sensual ways of showing how much you care for someone, even if you don’t feel like having sex. You can wait until you and your partner feel ready – there’s no right or wrong time. If you feel very self-conscious, making love while partly dressed or keeping the lighting low may be better for you.

If you’ve had breast reconstruction this will create a breast shape but the sensations in the breast and the nipple will not be the same as before the original breast surgery. This can affect sexual arousal if you were previously aroused by having your breasts touched. Although this can take time to adjust to, with the support of your partner you will still be able to enjoy a fulfilling sex life.

Positive lifestyle choices

Whether you decide to go ahead with risk reducing breast surgery or not you may want to choose to make positive lifestyle changes to improve their health. Positive lifestyle changes include eating well, keeping to a healthy weight, being physically active, sticking to sensible alcohol drinking guidelines and stopping smoking.

We have more information about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You can also get advice from your GP or specialist nurse. empty

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What happens after surgery?

Recovery can take some time after risk-reducing breast surgery. It will depend on the type of surgery you have had.