Sex and Women with Cancer: Overview

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Sex and Women With Cancer: Overview

Be sure to ask your doctor or nurse these questions about having sex during and after treatment.

    When will it be OK to have sex?

    Are there any types of sex I should avoid?

    What safety measures do I need to take, and for how long?

    What birth control is best for me and how long should I use it?

    How might each treatment affect my sex life?

Here are some points to keep in mind during and after cancer treatment.

Learn as much as you can about how your cancer treatment might affect your sex life.

The first thing to do is talk to your health care team about sex. You already may have asked how treatment will affect your work, your eating, or your pain. You have just as much right to know the facts about your sex life. When you know what to expect, you can make plans to handle any problems that come up.

No matter what kind of treatment is used, nearly everyone is able to feel pleasure when they are touched.

Few cancer treatments damage the nerves and muscles that help you feel pleasure from touch or having an orgasm. You might have to change the way it happens, but most women should still be able to feel pleasure and be satisfied.

Try to keep an open mind about ways to feel sexual pleasure.

Some couples have a narrow view of what’s normal sex. If both partners can’t reach orgasm the way they always have, they may feel cheated. But during cancer treatment, there may be times when you can’t have that kind of sex. Don’t give up just because your routine has been changed.

Try to have clear talks about sex with your partner.

Keeping each other up to date with what’s going on is key to a good sex life. Tell your partner what you learn from your doctor. If you feel weak or tired and want your partner to take a more active role in touching you, say so. If some part of your body is tender or sore, guide your partner’s touches to create the most pleasure and avoid pain. Keep in mind that if one partner has a sex problem, it affects both of you. It’s best if you work together to fix these problems.

Feel good about yourself.

Remind yourself about your good qualities. If you lose your hair, try a wig, hat, or scarf if it makes you feel better. If you’ve had a breast removed, try a breast form so your clothes fit better. Eating right and getting exercise can help keep your body strong and your spirits up. Don’t forget to take time alone to relax and enjoy time with friends. Do what makes you feel good about yourself.


Last Medical Review: 05/09/2013
Last Revised: 05/09/2013