Your thoughts and feelings about sex and relationships
Lots of things affect the way we think about, feel and experience anything to do with sex and relationships.
Being told you have cancer is a life-changing experience. When you are first told about it, you may feel shocked and unable to believe what’s happening.
Cancer can have a huge effect on your emotions. You may feel a mixture of fear, anger, sadness, loneliness or depression. You might have these feelings at the time of diagnosis, during treatment, or when you’re recovering and adjusting to life after treatment.
It can also be very hard for relatives, friends and partners to accept that someone close to them has cancer. They may not know what to say or how they can help. They may also have difficult feelings to cope with.
Lots of things affect the way that we think about, feel and experience anything to do with sex and relationships. No two people are the same. Your views are likely to be affected by many things, including:
being male or female
your sexual orientation
your religious or cultural beliefs
your friends and peers
your family’s views
your partner’s family’s views.
Having cancer and going through the treatment may affect your self-confidence. It could be a while before you’re ready to think about relationships and sex. You may need to adjust to changes caused by the cancer, such as changes to your body or lifestyle.
The way that you think and feel about yourself and your future, including becoming a parent, might also change.
Everyone is different. For example, some people have a very strong desire to become a parent throughout their childhood and teens, while others don’t think about it until they’re older. Remember, however you feel now may change over time.
Most young people think about sex and their sexual attractiveness when they are growing up. Some people also start to experiment sexually, while others might not. Some people will have had sexual experiences before being diagnosed with cancer, but others won’t have.
Body image is the mental picture we have of our own appearance. Cancer and its treatment can make your body look or work differently. This can be hard to deal with. Some changes may be temporary, such as hair loss. But some may be permanent, for example losing a limb.
At first I was really self-conscious of my scar and I had to cover it up. But then when I went to uni I was older and I just thought, “No, I’m not going to hide it anymore, I’m proud of it, I’m proud of what I’ve come through.
It can take a while to adjust to any changes to your body. You may worry about how attractive you are to others. Your self-confidence can be low while you recover from cancer and its treatment. How attractive you feel is also likely to be affected by your past experiences. You may find it difficult at this time to feel aroused or excited when thinking about sex or relationships. It might help to talk about your fears and anxieties with someone you trust.
We have more information about body image and cancer, including lots of tips on coping with body changes.