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Health Information & Tools >  Introduction to Cancer and Sexuality: What about Sex after a Cancer Diagnosis?
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Cancer and Sexuality

What about Sex after a Cancer Diagnosis?

It’s common for people to have changes with sex after having treatment for cancer, medical problems, or mental health issues. Sexuality is complex and depends on many factors like the body, the mind, and relationships.

It’s very common for people to lose their sexual desire or become less interested in sex than they used to be. But, everyone is different. During treatment, people might not be interested in being sexual because they don’t feel good, are too tired, or feel nauseated. For others, having cancer might make them want to live to the fullest and being sexual might help them feel more alive.

Some people have body changes that can make it hard to stay sexually active. Sometimes these changes in body and self-image can make people avoid sex. Sexuality is important and when there are issues, it can affect how people feel about themselves and it can affect relationships.​​

 
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How does cancer treatment affect sex?

  • While having treatment, having sex can help people feel healthy and full of life. It can also help strengthen an intimate relationship. It’s okay to have sex during treatment unless your healthcare provider tells you not to. You might not be able to have intercourse for a short time depending on the type of treatment you have (e.g., 6 weeks after surgery or vaginal radiation). However, there are other ways to be sexual during this time.
  • Some people don’t have sex during treatment, which can make it hard to have sex again when their treatments are finished.
  • It can be very hard for people who are single and dating if they’re having trouble with sex.
  • Some people might decide that sex is a thing of the past and decide not to be sexual any more. It’s okay to feel this way too.​

What changes do people with cancer have that can affect sex?

Cancer or treatments can cause these problems, which can affect sex:

  • fatigue
  • vaginal dryness
  • painful intercourse
  • erectile dysfunction
  • decreased sexual sensation
  • difficulty becoming aroused
  • changes in body image
  • scarring or loss of body parts (e.g., breast)​​​​​​​​​​

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