- Cancer, sex, and sexuality
- How the male body works sexually
- Keeping your sex life going despite cancer treatment
- Erections and pelvic surgery to treat cancer
- Erections and pelvic radiation therapy
- Erections and chemotherapy
- Erections, desire, and hormone therapy
- Erections and the psychological effects of cancer treatment
- Ejaculation and cancer treatment
- Fertility and cancer treatment
- How common cancer treatments can affect sexuality and fertility
- Dealing with sexual problems
- Dealing with short-term problems
- Finding the cause of problems that appear to be permanent
- When is sexual counseling helpful?
- Is there a pill that will cure sexual problems?
- Is there a way to restore erections if the nerves or blood supply of the penis has been damaged?
- Methods to help with erections
- Can testosterone restore sexual functioning?
- What about herbs or natural cures for erection problems?
- Is there a way to make orgasms as intense as they used to be?
- Special aspects of some cancer treatments
- Feeling good about yourself and feeling good about sex
- Chemotherapy changes the way you look
- Changing negative thoughts
- Overcoming depression
- Dealing with grief and loss
- Rebuilding self-esteem
- Good communication: The key to building a successful sexual relationship
- Overcoming anxiety about sex
- Rekindling sexual interest
- Sexual activity with your partner
- The single man and cancer
- Men who have sex with men
- Frequently asked questions
- Professional help
- About the American Cancer Society
- Additional resources
Feeling good about yourself and feeling good about sex
In the US, especially in the media, sex is all too often viewed as something only for the young and healthy. Sex appeal is judged by some as a skin-deep sort of beauty rather than something based on love, kindness, maturity, or a sense of humor. Based on looks alone, most people may not feel all that attractive to start with. And after being treated for cancer, their self-esteem can often fall even further.
After cancer treatment, it is very easy to focus only on the part of the body that has been affected. For example, a man who has had a laryngectomy may fear he will not be able to find another partner because he has lost his voice.
Sometimes friends and lovers do withdraw emotionally from a cancer patient. This may not be due to how a person looks, but be caused by some feelings or thoughts in the person who is doing the looking. When a wife cannot bear to look at her husband’s ostomy bag, for example, it may be a sign of much deeper feelings. Maybe she is angry because she had to take over her husband’s usual tasks of paying bills and doing household repairs. Or the ostomy may remind her of how sad she would feel if he died. It may be easier not to love him so much. She may even be more aware of her own chance of death and that is upsetting her. Yet all these feelings get blamed on a stoma that mars a small part of her husband’s body. The wife, in turn, may feel like a sexual failure and know that she is letting her husband down at a time when he needs her most.
Don’t give up on each other. It may take time and effort, but keep in mind that sexual touching between a man and his partner is always possible. It may be easy to forget this, especially if you are both feeling down or have not had sex for awhile. Review the “Keeping your sex life going despite cancer treatment” section for some tips to help you and your partner through this time. Also try the suggestions we make here to help you through some of the changes that cancer may have brought to your life, your self-esteem, and your relationships. And keep in mind that you may need extra help with the changes caused by cancer that can turn your and your partners’ lives upside down. See the “Professional help” section for more information.
Last Medical Review: 10/28/2011
Last Revised: 10/28/2011