Breast Cancer & Pelvic Floor Function
When first faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer the uppermost thought is treatment, not consequences.
Initial treatment and ongoing management are the most important considerations but what happens once you are through these stages?
Your hair is growing back, you are regaining confidence and vitality, you have adapted to whichever choice you have made for replacing your breast…..and you are now feeling more like resuming your intimate relationships but here can be where some of the consequences of treatment for breast cancer are experienced.
These are often the ones no one talks about, you may think you should just feel lucky to have survived and shouldn’t complain (or be made to feel this way) but this is not true!
What am I talking about?
Pelvic floor problems, vaginal dryness, difficulty having intercourse, lack of control of the bladder and/or bowel…are all issues that may arise either during or after treatment for breast cancer. And, just like any other time of life, these issues are important and shouldn’t be dismissed nor should you be made to feel that you should live with it.
There are reasons for this, the main ones being the absence of oestrogen or the after-effects of chemo and/or radiation. Your treatment may have involved drug therapy to suppress oestrogen production by your body if your tumour was oestrogen fed. Chemo can induce early menopause and radiation can affect tissues as well.
The result can be dryness of the vagina which may cause pain when attempting intercourse; pain can lead to tension and tightness in the pelvic floor muscles which can lead to an inability to have intercourse.
Symptoms of prolapse can worsen, and pelvic floor muscles can weaken- both of which can lead to loss of control of the bladder and/or bowel.
Women’s Health Physiotherapists are trained to assess and treat all of these problems.
Treatments can include:
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises.
- Bladder and bowel training (did you know how you sit on the loo is important?)
- Training in use of vaginal dilators to assist a pain free return to a fulfilling sex life.
- Pelvic floor muscle trigger point therapy, relaxation and down- training.