Living with cancer blog

Intimacy and sex after cancer treatment is over

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. March 18, 2014

Love, affection and intimacy are an important part of healthy relationships. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy may cause sexual side effects. As a cancer survivor, keep in mind that you may need to give your body time to heal after surgery or treatment. Be patient.

Sexual dysfunction is more common with cancers of the reproductive system, such as breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. Treatment for other cancers such as colorectal and bladder cancer can also have an effect on sexual function.

Sexual function may be altered because of surgery, chemotherapy and hormone (or hormone blocking) therapies. Changes in your body (such as loss of a breast) may affect your body image and can also impact your feelings about sex and intimacy.

Emotions can have a strong effect on your desire for sex due to anxiety, fears and physical changes during and after cancer treatment. It's important to recognize these emotions and understand the impact this may have on your desire for sex.

Intimacy and sex are strongly related, however, you may find that during this time of recovery and healing, your focus is more on intimacy and the emotional connection rather than the physical focus of a sexual relationship.

The following points may help you find new ways to be intimate with your partner:

  • Be open and honest — talk about how you're feeling.
  • Ask them how they feel — never assume you know what they're thinking.
  • Explore new ways to have a physical connection — try backrubs, foot massage, cuddling, reading together or simply holding hands.
  • As you're feeling better, request a date night and suggest what you'd like to do.
  • When you feel like initiating a sexual connection, communicate what you'd like to try and begin slowly.
  • The level of connection you feel with your partner may depend on your own body image — let them know if you're thinking about this so that you can talk about it.

Remember, sexuality and intimacy includes all parts of you — physical, emotional and spiritual.

Many times, intimacy and relationships are strengthened during this time. If you feel that you need more help, don't hesitate to ask for professional guidance.

Please reach out to each other on this topic. It's so important to feel the support and encouragement from others.


    Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

    Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

    March 18, 2014