In the spirit of Valentine's Day, we thought we'd cover the tough topic of sex after cancer. Survivors may experience a range of intimacy issues depending on the type of treatment. For example, men may experience periods of low testosterone after chemotherapy or erection problems and a reduced sperm count after radiation to the pelvic area, while some women may experience sudden menopause after chemotherapy or have their ovaries removed during surgery to remove their rectum. Not to mention personal concerns about your ostomy during sex. While this may sound daunting, there are many options and helpful resources available for patients and survivors! You're not alone - many have experienced:
- Initial anxiety due to physical changes & fear of injury
- Feelings of loneliness or a sense of rejection
- Inability to achieve an erection / lubrication / orgasm
Take a look at our Top Tips to get you started!
- Don’t be afraid to discuss sex with your doctor or nurse, especially after surgery and ending treatment. Ask when they recommend you become sexually active again and ask for help with an issues you may encounter. We promise you're not the only one and they've heard it all before! If you're embarrassed to ask at an appointment, consider sending them an email.
- You can also discuss fertility preservation with your doctor, even if they do not mention it to you initially, as this may affect your treatment plan. Read also: Fertility Preservation: The Good, The Ugly & Giving Cancer the Middle Finger
- Chemotherapy stays in your body for a while after treatment, so be sure to exercise caution regarding sexual activities. Using protection such as condoms can help control the exchange of fluids.
- Have open and honest communication with your sexual and/or romantic partner about your life as a survivor. This is key, especially when it comes to sex. Be open about what you're comfortable with and concerns you may have, even if it seems difficult. Don't be afraid to consider different types of sexual expression, such as massage, especially if you're just finishing treatment.
- If you have an ostomy, check out the United Ostomy Association for questions or concerns about sexual intimacy and ostomies.
Need Someone To Talk To? While sexuality can be a sensitive topic, you always have a safe space to speak to others who know what you’re going through. Whether you want to talk to other survivors in our Blue Hope Nation and COLONTOWN communities, you feel more comfortable speaking to a few people in our online chats or you’d just like to have a one-on-one conversation with a Certified Patient Support Navigator, we have your back!