ArticlesThe Aftermath of Breast Cancer: An Altered Sexual SelfWilmoth, Margaret Chamberlain PhD, RNAuthor Information From the College of Nursing & Health Professions, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This study was supported by a grant from the Oncology Nursing Foundation/Chiron Therapeutics. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Margaret Chamberlain Wilmoth, Department of Adult Health Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Professions, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223. Accepted for publication April 19, 2001. Cancer Nursing: August 2001 - Volume 24 - Issue 4 - p 278-286 Buy Abstract The literature lacks descriptions of the effect that breast cancer treatments have on sexuality from the perspective of women who have lived through this experience. The purpose of this study was to describe aspects of sexuality that were important to women after breast cancer treatment. Participants in this study were 18 white women with breast cancer between the ages of 35 and 68 years (mean, 50.5 years). Time since diagnosis ranged from 6 months to more than 10 years. Primary surgical treatment for seven women (39%) had been lumpectomy, and for 11 women (61%) mastectomy. Most of the participants also received adjuvant chemotherapy. This qualitative descriptive study used grounded theory methods. Two primary categories (losses and influencing pieces) emerged from the data analysis. The losses category had four components: missing parts, loss of bleeding—becoming old, loss of sexual sensations, and loss of womanhood. The influencing pieces were relationships and information control. The core concept identified was an altered sexual self. Central to the task of adjustment to living with breast cancer was coming to terms with a new sexual self that emerged after treatment. Women who sought information about the sexual side effects of cancer treatment, and who had strong intimate relationships appeared to experience a more successful adjustment. © 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.