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Sex after cervical cancer

Whatever your relationship status, cervical cancer can have a huge impact on how you feel about your body, sexuality and sex life. However, despite sexual problems being common, our research found that just over 1 in 10 (14%) of those affected receive treatment. 

We know sex isn’t an easy thing to talk to your healthcare team about and it may not have been discussed in your follow-up appointments. But it is important to know there is help and support available if changes to your sex life are causing you distress. If you are currently in a relationship, you may find it useful to read this section with your partner, or you could ask them to read it separately. 

Sexual problems may be caused by physical issues, emotional issues, or both. Where you are in your treatment and recovery may also affect how you feel about sex and it’s common for these feelings to change. 

Many women and people with a cervix experience hormonal and vaginal changes as long-term effects of pelvic radiotherapy. This is part of a condition called pelvic radiation disease or PRD. Understandably, these changes can have a knock-on effect on your sex life. You may experience vaginal dryness or changes to your sex drive, or sex might have become more painful and less pleasurable. Even without these physical symptoms, having to undergo intimate examinations during and after treatment may have left you feeling emotionally vulnerable and exposed. 

Equally, if you are in a relationship, changes to your relationship can affect how you feel about sex. It’s normal to not want sex when things are difficult emotionally. Added to any physical changes you have experienced, this may affect how you view and connect with your body, sense of self, and sexuality. 

There is no rush to start having sex after cervical cancer. You may prefer to focus on other areas of your recovery or regaining some normality in different parts of your life. But if physical intimacy does feel important and you’re struggling to get your sex life back to normal, you’re not alone. 

Date last updated: 
29 Oct 2020
Date due for review: 
29 Oct 2023