What Sex Toys Have to Do With Breast Cancer Recovery (Yes, Sex Toys

Yep, you’re reading that correctly. 

Let’s face it: For many of us, sex toys are an embarrassing topic of conversation — even six margaritas deep with our BFFs. But somewhat unexpectedly, when it comes to breast cancer — the most commonly diagnosed cancer among America women besides skin cancer — sex toys are something we should be talking about when we talk about recovery. To wit: Bala Cynwyd-based nonprofit Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Shop-to-Support store boasts a full line of CalExotics sex toys designed specifically for women who are going through or have been through breast cancer treatment.

But we get it: putting two and two together — as in why, exactly, a breast cancer nonprofit is promoting sex toys — can be a bit difficult to grasp. That’s precisely why I, being the ever-nosy human I am, talked to Doylestown-based psychologist Dr. Pamela Ginsberg, who specializes in women’s health and working with women who have cancer, and who also works with LBBC, to answer the question: WTF do sex toys have to do with breast cancer recovery? Turns out, a vibrator (or a silicone dilator kit, or a breast massager) can play a pretty big role.

As Dr. Ginsberg explains, breast cancer treatment can affect the body in a multitude of ways, spanning from the blatantly physical — think: mastectomy, breast reconstruction, chemotherapy and its effects, etc. — to the more mental (medications can impact hormones, causing menopausal symptoms, like a drop in libido; and the physical changes your body goes through can affect how you see yourself). “There’s a feeling of your body betraying you,” after breast cancer treatment, Dr. Ginsberg explains. “There are surgical changes and many women gain weight due to medication.” Then there’s also the fact that months spent at doctors’ offices talking about cancer in your breasts can desexualize that part of your body.

All of this can lead to a disconnect between your sense of self and the body you now inhabit, and this disconnect can seriously impact sexual health. Because of this, as Dr. Ginsberg explains, “When a woman is going through breast cancer treatment and afterwards, there’s a process where she has to re-familiarize herself with her body.” This, my friends, is where sex toys come in. Sex toys, Dr. Ginsberg says, can help in the process of getting to a know a body you might not feel connected to, with or without a partner.

And to get to, well, why your sexual health — something we as a society tend to hide evidence of in bedside drawers rather than prioritize — actually matters when it comes to breast cancer recovery, as Dr. Ginsberg points out, “Our sexual health has a lot to do with us feeling ‘normal.’ And it also has a lot to do with our quality of life.” She goes on to say, after cancer treatment, “We say you ‘get back to health,’ but what do we mean? Because it’s not just the absence of cancer in your body.” Her point? Paying attention to your sexual health is a part — an important part, actually — of the recovery process.

And why are we here in Be Well Philly Land talking about this, you ask? Well, when we were chatting with Dr. Ginsberg, she noted that women who are affected by breast cancer are generally fine talking treatment, but when it comes to sexual health — and post-treatment sexual-health issues — they clam up. So this blog post is our attempt to help normalize that discussion. And there you have it: A perfectly acceptable reason to talk sex toys in public. Take it away, readers.

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