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Sex and Cancer

Posted 5/13/2013

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  I have written many times before about sexuality and cancer. The bottom line is that cancer is never a sexual aide, that a diagnosis and treatment impacts intimacy for everyone, and that it is not talked about as much as it should be. For most people with a new diagnosis, worries about sex are not at the top of the worry list; there are exceptions, but most of us are more distressed about possibly dying, the impact on our children, worrying about chemo and hair loss and nausea, professional issues, etc. It is also usually not at the top of our doctors' lists as there are so many things to discuss in the relatively brief appointment times. And, of course, are doctors are human and not all are so comfortable talking about sex. In our practice, I know that one of the common reasons for a referral to me is sexual concerns--expressed to the oncologist and quickly referred.

  The problems are often most acute during treatment. It is virtually impossible to feel one's most desirable and pretty when bald and sick. Most partners, too, are cognizant of this and tread rather carefully. However, patience may run thin after treatment ends (see my blog of a few days ago re the impact of cancer on marriage), and the repair and improvement of our intimate relationships take time and work.

  This is an excellent essay by Heather Millar on Web MD. I give you the beginning and a link to read more:

Sex and Cancer
By Heather Millar
In my experience, sex is the big elephant in the room for cancer patients. Iʼve written about this before:
. But in the year since I wrote those posts, Iʼve begun to realize what a huge problem this is
for patients and survivors alike. Iʼve heard about it in support groups, I see people complain about it on on-line bulletin boards,
like those at
People feel angry, ripped off. Cancer maims parts of your body, they cry. It saps your energy. It makes you miserable. All this,
and it takes one of lifeʼs great pleasures as well?
Full disclosure: My husband and I have struggled with how to be intimate after cancer. Right after my surgeries, and during
chemo and radiation, he was afraid to touch me. In the couple of years since then, weʼve fought against fatigue, and schedules,
and the realization that after 23 happy years of marriage, we need to reinvent the most private part of our relationship. Weʼre
making headway, but itʼs a work in progress.
Weʼre feeling our way, ha, ha. Part of the problem is that thereʼs so little advice out there, so little data on what cancer patients
should do to spice it up, and to remain connected physically.



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