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The feelings we have can be very powerful influences on our sexuality and our sexual behaviour.
If you’re feeling depressed| or anxious|, or afraid about your cancer, its treatment or your relationship, you’re unlikely to be aroused by thoughts of sex.
Being diagnosed with cancer usually causes many strong emotions that may make you less interested in sex. Fear, anxiety, pain, anger|, envy and jealousy are common blocks to arousal. People who’ve had a change in their body due to illness or surgery often have a fear of rejection.
Normal, everyday feelings are intensified, which can be exhausting and may lead to a loss of interest in sex. However, some people feel an increase in sexual arousal - everybody’s different. Some people say that they feel guilty for worrying about their sex life when they should just be grateful for being alive. Feelings can sometimes be overwhelming and may be intensified by the worry that your emotions will also affect the people around you.
Our section on the emotional effects of cancer| discusses the effects cancer may have on all areas of your life
Sexual self-esteem is often directly related to overall feelings of wellbeing. If you feel unsure about yourself and lack confidence as a result of the cancer, you may also lack confidence sexually. It can help to talk about and express these difficult feelings.
You could share your feelings with someone who will listen and not judge you or tell you what to do - perhaps a close friend or family member. If you have feelings that are hard to discuss, you could always talk to our cancer information specialists|.
Sexual contact can be a good outlet for some people. Anger may subside in a healthy way after intercourse. Sexual contact can also distract people from feelings that are bothering them.
You may find it best to talk directly with your partner if you have one. Share your rage, anger and other feelings. Many couples use such times to start being more honest with one another, perhaps after many years of avoiding sensitive issues. Keeping old feelings hidden won’t help you or your relationship to heal. By talking openly you may find that you can overcome the problems in communication that are common in matters of sex and cancer.
Content last reviewed: 1 October 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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