Sex and intimacy

Your sex life probably wasn't the first thing on your mind when you found out you had cancer or during your treatments. It still may not be a priority or you might be happy with how things are.

It doesn't matter if you're in your 20s or your 70s, single, in a long-term or casual relationship, or whether you’re attracted to men or women, how you feel sexually may have changed since diagnosis. In our recent sex and relationship survey, 90% of you had experienced changes within your sex life as a result of cervical cancer. Some felt it had improved, but over half of you are not satisfied with how things are now. Some changes to your sex life may require more specialised care, but other changes may be simple to improve and your Cancer Nurse Specialist will be able to offer you support and help.

Whilst this section is about sex, it's important to remember it is ok to want or not want to be sexual – it's only a problem if it's causing a problem for you. If you are currently in a relationship, you may want to read this information with your partner.

Sex isn't just about the act of intercourse, we're complex beings us humans (yes men as well!). Things that affect your sex life include what's happening for you emotionally, socially, personally, culturally and physically.

Your thoughts and feelings towards sex may have changed, for instance:

  • Treatments may affect how you view your body and/or how your body works
  • Where you are in the cancer journey will also impact on sex
  • Your relationships may have altered. It’s normal to go off sex at times of stress and fear and it can follow that you start to avoid other forms of intimacy as well. Changes in your sex life can be caused by both physical and emotional issues

‘Normal’ sexual response or what happens to your body during sexual encounters (including masturbation) has been researched for years and various stages or steps have been identified. These include desire/willingness, arousal, readiness (sometimes called plateau), orgasm/satisfaction and resolution; the stages are interlinked and overlap each other. Cancer, its treatment and the other factors mentioned above can interrupt any of the stages.

This section will look at key changes that may have a negative effect on you sexually. These include:  

These pages aim to give you information on why your sex life has changed and some tips on how you might improve things. Most importantly, we want you to know that you are not alone and, if you need it, help is available. Your GP or cancer team should also be able to offer advice and information, also the links in this section point to self help from professional sites and books. Some of you may benefit from professional help with a psychosexual therapist, information about how to access services is also included in this section. 

 

Marion's story

"...Of course the cancer has impacted on my life. After treatment I had to start using dilators because the vagina was just so tender.  It's not a nice thing but it gradually gets easier and my husband is really patient and is really open with me which helps."

Read more about Marion and her cancer journey, click here

Date last updated: 
11 Feb 2015
Date due for review: 
11 Feb 2018

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