How Cancer Affects Sex: What You Should Know

Let’s face it - there’s nothing sexy about cancer. But does that mean you can’t have sex when you have cancer? Absolutely not!

Facing the Facts about Cancer and Sex
According to Macmillan Cancer Support, one in two individuals in the United Kingdom will have cancer during their lifetime. In the United States, the statistics are staggering as well with approximately 1.8 million diagnosed with cancer just this year. A study from the American Cancer Society recently revealed that sex is as important for those with cancer as it is for those without it. Sometimes, even more so.

How Cancer Affects Sex
Cancer and cancer treatment are bound to impact your sex life. How cancer affects sex in your personal life may be determined by a number of factors including the type of cancer and the stage it is in. For instance, a male who has undergone surgical removal of his testicles will obviously have a different outlook on sex than an individual who simply has a patch of stage 1 skin cancer removed.
Even if your cancer is not advanced, there are sexual changes caused by cancer that you may encounter such as:

  • Physical changes - you may be preoccupied with how your body looks or how it is responding (or not responding) to sex. Furthermore, the symptoms of cancer or side effects of treatment may make a difference on how cancer and sex interact in your given situation.
  • Emotional changes - Cancer often brings on a high level of anxiety and stress which may make it more difficult for you to get “in the mood”.
  • Practical changes - When you’re dealing with cancer, your schedule is often packed with doctor’s appointments and treatment. You may find that setting aside time for sex during cancer is challenging.

For all of the issues above, there are a handful of solutions. If you are experiencing embarrassment due to your body’s appearance or performance, you’ll find there are a myriad of products on the market that promote performance. In the event you don’t think you look good, why not buy a flattering, sexy outfit? Or, if you’re a male, dawn an irresistible strap-on? The sky is the limit for creative problem solving in the bedroom.
Emotional changes can be remedied as well. Try talking to your partner about your feelings of inadequacy or your lack of interest in sexual relations. You can also talk to your doctor, chemotherapist, cancer team members, a good friend, clergy, and/or a therapist. It is also helpful to realize that sex is more than the actual act of sex. It begins with a kiss in the morning and can go on through the day in actions such as telling your partner how nice they look or giving a flirty wink to them from across the room. The more you engage in actions that are not actual sex acts, the more emotionally responsive you will be when you are ready to have sex.
If scheduling is the issue, be sure to “save the date” on your calendar for a date night. Setting aside special time to be with your partner for sexual encounters is imperative if you are up to having sex during cancer. Once you get used to your cancer treatment routine, you will know which times will work out best. For example, if you are worn out after going to the doctor or feel bad the morning after chemo, don’t choose those dates. Always remember that if something changes and you don’t feel up to having sex during cancer treatments, it is never set in stone.

Is Sex Healthy During Cancer Treatments?
Typically, your body is in tune with what it needs. If you are too sick to have sex, you probably won’t have the desire. That’s when sex and cancer don’t mix, at least for the time being.
In other instances, your body may tell you that it is healthy enough for sex but isn’t cooperating. That’s when you may need a little help. From sex toys and adult videos to sex therapy with a professional, there are ways to work around it if sex and cancer are not meshing for you.
You may also find you have a slew of questions flooding your mind. You may wonder if sex will make your cancer worse. No. It will not. If you are having high-dose radiation or surgery in your pelvic area, you may need to wait until your body heals before having sex. If you have seed brachytherapy (an internal radiotherapy), your physician may advise you to avoid sex for a short duration in order to protect your partner from the secondary effects of radiation. In rare instances, after receiving mega-doses of chemotherapy, you may need to refrain from sex for a time in order to prevent infection. It is important to remember that these cancer-based issues are temporary.
Do make sure your body is healthy enough to have sex though. If it isn’t, chances are it will be once your treatment regime is over. When it does come back, you’ll be more than ready for it.

Cancer and Libido
Cancer and cancer treatments do have the capacity to knock the wind out of your sail. Some prescriptions and other medicines have side effects that include loss of sex drive. On the other hand though, sometimes cancer causes individuals to crave sex. They can’t get enough. Since sex is proven to relieve stress and can promote emotional bonding, don’t be shocked if cancer and sex are a great match for you or your partner. If you find that having sex when you have cancer works for you, go for it providing there is no medical reason not to.

Riding Out the Storm
How cancer affects sex is different for everyone. Being in tune with your body is highly helpful. If you find yourself wanting sex and there’s no medical reason not to have it, look to innovative solutions if problems arise.
Cancer is a whole new journey. If it has become your reality, the best thing you can do is to roll with the punches and make the best of your situation when possible. The good news is that having sex when you have cancer is by all means possible if you are healthy enough and there’s no medical reason not to. Sex during cancer may just be the saving grace that helps you ride this stormy time in your life out...literally.

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