After a diagnosis of cancer most people initially focus on survival. However once treatment has started, is ongoing, or completed and everyday life returns, patients and their partners have time to consider the effect of their illness and treatment on their sex life and their relationship.
Cancer treatment can lead to altered body appearance and reduced self-confidence. This may leave you anxious about sexual issues or facing difficulties in desire, arousal or orgasm. Illness may result in you or your partner not wanting to have sex or to talk about it, even if you did before. This may be upsetting for both of you. Seeking help to adjust to the changes can help you find a new and satisfying way of relating to yourself and your partner.
If your body is suddenly very changed, you may need to think about how to achieve pleasure and satisfaction in new ways. Sadly, when sex stops, other types of intimacy often stop too. Your partner may not hug or kiss you in case you get aroused and want more sexual behaviour. Talking about this and agreeing boundaries about how far your behaviour will go can encourage an intimate time together. Explore new ways of being close. Hand, foot or head and shoulder massages are enjoyable and relaxing. If one partner gets aroused and wishes for more sexual behaviour, masturbation (together or separately) is pleasurable.
Finding someone you can talk to, alone or together, could be very helpful. It may be a doctor or nurse, a close friend or a therapist. If it is difficult for you to talk face-to-face, there are helplines you can contact and a number of websites specifically for people who have experienced cancer which might be useful.