Oophorectomy is a procedure when a woman’s ovaries are removed. In my case, I have the BRCA gene mutation, so my ovaries were removed to reduce the risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer.
Although removing my ovaries reduced the risk of cancer, there are some effects that I had to consider. One of those effects was inducing menopause, which is also known as surgical menopause. On average, most women reach menopause between the ages 45 to 55.
I’m 35-years- old, so I’m having menopause symptoms almost 20 years ahead of the average age. But what exactly are those symptoms? They vary, but can range from having hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, emotional and cognitive symptoms, irregular vaginal bleeding, vaginal and urinary symptoms, and other physical changes.
There’s also the risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease. The removal of ovaries decreases the supply of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen helps support strong bones and often less estrogen is associated with an increase in heart disease. However, continuing healthy habits are to my benefit.
To reduce the menopause symptoms doctors can prescribe me hormone therapy. However, as difficult it is, I am trying to overcome my symptoms hormone-free. I’ve adjusted my diet, cutting out tomatoes, chocolate, and coffee. To be honest, I see a major difference without hormones and changing my diet has helped.
Another reality of menopause and as a Previvor is a change in my sex life. Personally, what I have noticed is that the sex is painful due to vaginal dryness and I have no feeling in my breasts. I now need to have lubricant on-hand in order to reduce that dryness and pain during sex.
There are various lubricants out in the market that can help with dryness. It’s important though to also keep in mind that there are silicone-based, oil-based, and water-based products. (Note:
Never use oil-based lubricants (e.g. massage oils or Vaseline) with latex condoms – they can break.) It’s best to find a lubricant that makes sex more enjoyable for you and your partner.
As for the loss of sensation in my breasts, treatments to reverse breast numbness after mastectomy are not yet available. Although it is possible to recover some feeling in the months or years to come, it won’t ever feel exactly the way they felt before.
There is research being done to provide options to help women regain some feeling in breasts. The most promising option is nerve regeneration in the skin of the breast. It’s most likely to work if the patient’s own tissue is used, rather than implants. However, researchers are still trying to overcome some challenges.
Intimacy as a Previvor
For example, they have yet to identify which nerves will reclaim the greatest levels of sensation and determining the best way to guide nerve endings to encourage regrowth and restoring the
feeling in the breasts.
Since there is no way to bring sensation to my breasts at the moment, the alternative would be to find new ways arousal can be achieved during sexual intimacy. Discovering non-penetrative
sexual techniques can especially be helpful when experiencing pain during intercourse.
Overall, it’s important to communicate with your partner about any sexual dissatisfactions and suggest ways to improve the experience. Let your partner know that you need their support. Sexual intimacy as a Previvor can be frustrating, but remember to be patient with each other.
Understand that it’s going to take time to get back into the groove—or at least to a point where you can enjoy new and different sexual experiences with each other.
“My brca2gene started the fight but I am going to finish it.”