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Learn About Sexuality and Gender©
Written by Cancer Center Staff

Source: Cancer Resource Room

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Cancer can cause changes in your sexual relationships. These changes can be caused by physical or emotional issues. There are steps that you, your doctor, and your partner can take to help you continue to have close relationships.

How Your Sexuality May Be Affected
Here are some physical challenges that may affect your physical relationships.

  • Surgical treatments can damage nerves. This includes the nerves that are needed to feel sexual pleasure.
  • Medications to manage pain or depression can make you lose your desire for sex.
  • Treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can cause side effects like fatigue or nausea. This can affect your ability and desire to have physical relationships.

Here are some emotional challenges that may affect your physical relationships.

  • Feeling anxious, nervous, or unhappy, may make you lose your sexual desire.
  • Changes to your body may make you feel unattractive. For example, you may have lost your hair, gained or lost weight, or had a surgical treatment that changes the way your body looks. Tubes and drains can also affect body image.
  • Your partner may be nervous and not know what to do. He or she may be afraid of hurting you.

Talk With Your Doctor
Your sexuality is important. When you and your doctor are planning your treatment, you should discuss ways to keep up physical relationships. For example:

  • If you need surgery that can affect the nerves that control sexual pleasure, ask if the surgery can spare the nerves.
  • If medications have made you lose your desire for sex, ask if they can be changed or replaced with different medications.
  • Tell your doctor about any side effects from cancer treatment.
  • Ask about treatments to increase sexual desire, such as Viagra or estrogen creams.

Talk With Your Partner
Talking with your partner is very important. You are dealing with major changes in your lives right now. Talk about how you feel, both physically and emotionally. Encourage your partner to talk about what he or she is feeling. Together, sort through your fears and worries. Once they are out in the open, you will be able to handle them just as you have handled other challenges in your relationship.

When intercourse is not possible, rethink “sex” and be more creative. You can be close by touching, manual stimulation, cuddling and holding. Most importantly, focus on all of the positive parts of your life together. Continue to love and support each other

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We know that being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful for you and your family. We offer a variety of cancer support services to help patients and families gain the support and information they will need to meet the challenges ahead.

To find support and education workshops, and wellness services offered this month, please view the HOPES calendar.