The Challenge of Sexuality in Cancer

February 13, 2018

 When we marry - whoever we choose our life partner to make that commitment to - mostly we vow to stay together "in sickness and in health".  However serious illness can cause an immense strain on relationships.


A cancer diagnosis is almost always life changing and being diagnosed with cancer is now one of the most common life-changing events in people’s lives.  In fact, it’s more common than marriage. That’s according to a new report from Macmillan Cancer Support which found there are over 70,000 more new cases of cancer each year in UK than new marriages.


For most of us, sexuality is something we take for granted.  It goes through many phases, puberty and discovery and experimentation; partnerships, multiple partners; marriage, security, children, monotony, regularity, boredom or enjoyment.  Even if unhappy with our sex life, sex is always there for us if we are in relative health, it is always an option.  Human sexuality is about much more than the ability to have intercourse.  It fulfils basic needs, releases tension, boosts self esteem, give us a sense of self as a male or female, makes us feel wanted, accepted, feel loved and feel whole.


Cancer diagnosis and treatments can have tremendous psychological and emotional impact.  Depression, loss of confidence, anxiety, loss of self esteem, feelings of failure.  Our sense of who we are is changed, body image, medications can also cause  a change to sexual response and ability.


Yet, it can be one of the things a patient is least asked about by medical professionals either during or after treatment and one of the things that might be most important to re-establish a sense of self, confidence in a 'new (post treatment) you' and in helping the struggling relationship or helping to move onto another better relationship.  Anxiety, depression, embarrassment, fatigue, cancer progression, medications weak or absent sex drive all can be due to a physical or emotional problem.  


Married or not, if you are in a committed relationship and you survive cancer diagnosis and treatment, what happens after?  How do those patients who are left with difficulties with intimacy post cancer treatment, get back to a normal healthy relationship?


If sex is no longer possible or desired, there are many other things to do as an alternative.  Focus on the  things that are still the same, may not have been changed like the expression of feelings for one another,  enjoying being close to each other, touching, stroking, kissing, massaging and holding hands.


Most of all talk about worries and fears, talk about feelings, about what each other likes and dislikes about what may have changed.  Having someone to talk to about the very difficult feelings and emotions can help.  It sometimes helps if that person is a stranger to your normal circle of family and friends.  Psycho-sexual counselling from a professional who knows about cancer treatments and its affects both emotionally and physically can help.  If you would like to book an appointment to talk anything through, please call.  Help may not be as far away.  















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