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Sexuality and Cancer Treatment

Posted 6/20/2014

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  Ah, at long last, back to one of our favorite topics. In case you are new to this blog, this is a recurring topic, and there are a few summary statements:

1. Cancer treatment was never an asset to anyone's sexuality and intimate relationship.

2. Cancer treatment inevitably changes, at least for a while, one's body, sense of self, libido, and responsiveness.

3. Although you may never return to the ribald relationship you had before, it will get better.

4. Communication is key.

  Having just given you the quick report, there is much more to say. One issue is that this topic is rather infrequently discussed in standard medical appointments. Partly that is because physicians are human and more or less comfortable talking about sex, and mostly it is because there is so much else that needs to be discussed (treatment plans, side effects, statistics, blood counts, etc.) that there often isn't time for this one. At BIDMC, some of our doctors do a good job at at least bringing this up and normalizing the concerns, and almost all of them are excellent at referring patients to me or my colleagues for further conversations.

  This is a quite good article from CancerNet; I give you the start and a link to read more:

 Sexuality and Cancer Treatment: Women

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 4/2014
Key Messages:

Cancer treatment can cause physical and emotional changes that affect a woman’s desire and ability to have sex. If you or your partner have questions about the effect treatment might have on sexual health and intimacy, it’s okay to bring them up before you start treatment.
Managing side effects that cause sexual problems is an important part of cancer treatment, and women should not be embarrassed to ask their doctors or other members of the health care team about the available solutions.
There are several ways you, as well as your partner or spouse, can get support for sexual concerns, including working with social workers, finding a support group, or obtaining a referral to a sex educator or counselor.
Many women experience physical and emotional changes during and after cancer treatment that affect their desire and ability to have sex. Although it may seem difficult, it is important to speak openly with your doctor, nurse, social worker, or other member of your health care team about your sexuality and intimacy concerns, even before treatment starts, as there are ways to cope with these concerns.


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