Sexuality for the Woman With Cancer

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Summary table of how some common cancer treatments can affect sexuality and fertility

Female sexual problems caused by cancer treatment

    Treatment

    Low sexual desire

    Less vaginal moisture

    Reduced vaginal size

    Painful intercourse

    Trouble reaching orgasm

    Infertility

 

    Chemotherapy

    Sometimes

    Often

    Rarely – only if linked to menopause

    Often

    Rarely

    Often

    Pelvic radiation therapy

    Often, if sex is linked with pain

    Often

    Often

    Often

    Rarely

    Often

    Radical hysterectomy

    Rarely

    Often*

    Often

    Rarely

    Rarely

    Always

    Radical cystectomy

    Rarely

    Often*

    Always

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Always

    Abdominoperineal (AP) resection

    Rarely

    Often*

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Rarely

    Sometimes*

    Total pelvic exenteration with vaginal reconstruction

    Sometimes

    Always

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Always

    Radical wide local excision vulvectomy (or partial vulvectomy

    Rarely

    Never

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Never

    Conization of the cervix

    Never

    Never

    Never

    Rarely, only if scar tissue forms

    Never

    Rarely

    Oophorectomy (removal of one tube & ovary)

    Rarely

    Never*

    Never*

    Never – unless linked to menopause

    Never

    Rarely

    Oophorectomy (removal of both tubes & ovaries)

    Rarely

    Often*

    Sometimes*

    Sometimes*

    Rarely

    Always

    Mastectomy or radiation to the breast

    Rarely

    Never

    Never

    Never

    Rarely

    Never

    Tamoxifen therapy for breast or uterine cancer

    Sometimes

    Often

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Rarely

    Need to use birth control

    Aromatase inhibitor therapy for breast cancer

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Sometimes

    Sometimes, if sex is painful

    N/A (only given to women after menopause)

*Vaginal dryness and size changes should not occur if you have one working ovary left or if hormone replacement therapy is given.

Last Medical Review: 08/29/2013
Last Revised: 08/29/2013