Sexuality and intimacy

Sexuality and intimacy during your cancer journey

There is no one size fits all when it comes to cancer. Each person’s experience will differ and how they deal with their life will be their own story. For many this means trying to continue their life during treatment in the most normal way possible, which also involves the intimate side of life.

After your diagnosis

While it will naturally take some time for the shock of your diagnosis to set in, your life will still continue and this includes your sex life. It may be hard to keep your mind on anything except your treatment and the last thing you possibly feel like is being intimate with anyone.

Depending on the type of cancer or treatment, your sexual organs, libido, body image and general well-being can be affected.

Depending on your specific diagnosis and treatment you will possibly have questions for your medical team. Even though these are often difficult conversations starting these early on in your cancer journey is probably a good idea. You may want to know:

  • Could my cancer cause problems in my sexual relationship – will it affect my sexual desire?
  • What can I do if it does?
  • Should I even be thinking of sex before my treatment and surgery?
  • How soon after surgery can I have sex?
  • When I resume having sex should I watch out or avoid anything in particular?

The importance of communication

Keeping your partner in the loop on what your doctors have told you and how you feel is vital for your relationship. They need to feel just as comfortable as you in asking difficult questions. On days when you feel weak, tired, or depressed, share this with your partner rather than soldier on bravely.

Renowned surgeon and top breast cancer specialist, Professor Carol-Ann Benn explains: “Intimacy and sexuality start way before a physical act; communication of fears and feelings about body changes and needs are also important. The physical act should never be painful, uncomfortable or not enjoyable. And also remember there are things that can help improve the experience such as lubricants.”

“When it comes to reassurance around body image don’t wait until after treatment – you can start discussing options with your healthcare specialists.

For Nicole during her treatment for breast cancer and ultimately a double mastectomy she desperately needed to feel wanted. “When I lost my hair and then my breasts removed, I felt totally undesirable and really needed reassurance that my husband would still want me. Just being held by him was so comforting.”