Sexuality, intimacy and cancer

Having cancer doesn’t mean you are no longer a sexual person. However, treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can affect your sexuality. This includes your interest in sex, your ability to give or receive sexual pleasure, how you see yourself and how you think others see you. Some of these effects are temporary while others are permanent. All can be managed or controlled.

As individuals, people not only have different ways of expressing and defining sexuality and intimacy, but they also place their own importance on these needs.

Some people may feel an increased need for sexual and intimate contact for reassurance. Some may be less interested in intimacy and sex, or feel that these things are temporarily less important. Others may feel too tired or sick to want sex, or feel they are less sexually attractive to their partner because of changes that cancer and its treatment have caused to their body.

If you are concerned about changes to your sex life, it is important to talk to your partner. He or she may feel that, if they raise the topic, they might place too great a demand on you or might make you feel guilty.

You can also talk to your health care team about the potential challenges you may face. Knowing what changes may occur, and addressing them if they affect you personally, will help you overcome or adjust to the changes.