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Addressing Sexual Health Concerns After Breast Cancer Treatment

Therese Byrne and Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, speak briefly about the significance of addressing sexual health concerns in comprehensive cancer care at an American Medical Association (AMA) event.

Therese's Story

Therese Byrne says she accepted her breast cancer diagnosis, treatment plan and the side effects related to her therapy because she wanted to get well.

Therese Byrne

“During that phase, there were many resources to help ease the discomfort that comes with the disease,” said Byrne, a property manager who lives in the western suburbs with her husband, Tom, and four children.

But when her treatment at the University of Chicago Medicine was completed, Byrne, 50, did not expect to find intimacy with her husband of 25 years challenging.

“My body, as well as my spirit, had been through a lot; I was shocked, in many ways, about what life looked like post-cancer,” said Byrne, who experienced sudden menopause as a result of the chemotherapy. “But I know that I am not the only cancer survivor who has had this experience. Every woman I have talked to who has been through breast cancer treatment had some change in sexual function.”

“She made me feel hopeful. What she did was simple, but profound.”

Byrne found hope and help at UChicago Medicine’s Program for Integrative Sexual Medicine (PRISM). Directed by obstetrician/gynecologist Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, and gynecologic oncologist S. Diane Yamada, MD, PRISM helps female cancer patients and survivors regain their sexuality. The PRISM care team also includes psychologists and physical therapists, and collaborates with specialists in radiology, sleep medicine, physical therapy, psychiatry, urogynecology, neurology and/or surgery as needed. This collaboration has served as a model for the development of other multidisciplinary programs across the country.

“PRISM offers an expanded approach to cancer care,” said Lindau, a nationally known expert in the field of women’s sexual health. “Patients need to know that they are not alone if they experience these symptoms. We support them during all stages of treatment and recovery.”

Byrne praised Lindau for welcoming the dialogue and making the topic comfortable to discuss.

“She made me feel hopeful,” Byrne said. “What she did was simple, but profound.”

January 2015

Winter 2015 issue of Imagine magazine

This story ran in the Winter 2015 issue of Imagine, a quarterly magazine published by the University of Chicago Medicine.
» Read the latest issue.