Sexuality for the Man With Cancer

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Overcoming anxiety about sex

Many couples believe that sex should always happen on the spur of the moment, with little or no advance planning. But sometimes you’re dealing with a cancer-related symptom or treatment side effect that makes it impossible to be as spontaneous as you may have been in the past. The most important thing is to open up the topic for discussion and begin scheduling some relaxed time together. Couples need to restart their lovemaking slowly.

Part of the anxiety about resuming sex is caused by the pressure to satisfy your partner. One way to explore your own capacity to enjoy sex is to start by touching yourself. Masturbation is not a required step in resuming your sex life, but it can help. By touching your own genitals and even bringing yourself to orgasm, you can find out if cancer treatment has changed your sexual response without having to worry about frustrating yourself or your partner. It can also help you find out where you might be tender or sore, so that you can let your partner know what to avoid.

Many of us may have learned as children that masturbation was wrong or shameful. But it’s a normal and positive experience for most people. Most men and women have tried touching their own genitals at some time in their lives. Many people who enjoy good sex lives with their partners still masturbate at times. Men and women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s often still enjoy self-stimulation.

If you feel at ease with the idea, try stroking not just your genitals, but all of the sensitive parts of your body. Notice the different feelings of pleasure that you can have.

The self-help books listed in the “To learn more” section can help you feel more relaxed about masturbation. Later you can teach your partner any new discoveries you make about your body’s sensitive zones. Even if cancer treatment has not changed your sexual responses, you may find some new caresses to enhance your sexual routine.

Last Medical Review: 08/19/2013
Last Revised: 08/19/2013