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Cancer Treatment and Sexual Health

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 10 April 2021
Cancer Treatment and Sexual Health
Changes in sexual health may not a priority when you have been diagnosed with cancer, but it might be more important than you expect.
Depending on the treatment you are given, sexual side effects range from mildly annoying to downright debilitating. For instance, hormone-blocking medications can cause vaginal dryness, which can lead to painful sex or lowered sex drive. Patients who have a mastectomy (breast removal) may no longer have feeling in the chest area. Changes in body image affect sexual well-being. Young women may face infertility or early menopause with cancer treatments.
Patients tend to feel their cancer diagnosis sets them apart from others. They may feel like their issues are theirs alone, but they are not.
Many times, patients also feel they shouldn't discuss their sexual issues with their doctor. Patients may feel uncomfortable asking, or they may be afraid to make their doctors uncomfortable. They may believe sexual health issues are not as "important" as their physical cancer treatments and therefore may be reluctant to bring it up with the doctor. Just know that this is a very common issue among cancer survivors, and medical treatments are available that may help.
It may help to write down your questions before you see your doctor. Here are some questions to get you started.
Is there a risk of infertility with this treatment? What can I do about it?
Is it safe to have sex while I am going through chemotherapy? What precautions do we need to take?
Is it possible to get pregnant while on this treatment? Would there be any increased risks or negative effects on the baby?
What method to prevent pregnancy would be right for me?
Will this treatment have effects on sexual function?
Can anything be done about low interest in sex?
Can anything be done to help with my body image?
Sex has become painful. Is there anything that can help?
What is pelvic floor physical therapy, and would it be helpful for me?
Many sexual health concerns after cancer are very common and can be treated. Just like many things are not the same after a cancer diagnosis, your sex life may not be the same either. Having patience with yourself, having honest communication with your partner and looking at intimacy in new and creative ways can help restore a healthy sex life.
Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsMost PopularCancerBreast Cancer

Associations

  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australasian Integrative Medicine Association
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia