Dr. Katz shares how women react to their bodies after breast cancer surgery.
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So this was a young woman; she was in her 30s when she was treated for breast cancer and she had had a mastectomy, one breast was removed. And when I met her, it was about 18 months or two years after her treatment, and she described to me how her husband would touch her scar. She hadn’t had reconstruction, and I am not sure the reason why she hadn’t, and so, you know, during sexual play he would touch that side of her chest wall and it drove her crazy. Because of the surgery, when the nerves start to re-grow and regenerate, women often have altered sensations so there can be a lot of tingling. Sometimes it feels like little electric shocks in the skin, and sometimes there are large areas of numbness, which if you touch an area that’s numb it actually becomes quite irritating, and this woman said to me that, you know, she knew that her husband was doing this because he wanted to show acceptance, you know, of her scar, which when you look at the research is actually fairly unusual. Most men are either neutral about it or actually are quite, act almost afraid or sort of ignore it completely, and I actually was just reading a paper recently which spoke of men’s actual repulsion, which obviously is the other end of the spectrum. So, this woman’s husband was constantly touching her scar during sex play, and really it was very, very uncomfortable for her, but she didn’t know how to tell him. And this had now gone on for so long that, you know, she was fearful that he would say, “You know what,” which he probably would, “Why didn’t you tell me that it was painful? Why didn’t you tell me that this was irritating? How could you have let me continue for this length of time?” So, you know, it’s a difficult situation.