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In a recent Macmillan survey, 72% of respondents* said cancer had affected their sexual relationship, with two thirds of these people feeling they couldn't talk to their GPs about it.
Macmillan believes that people affected by cancer have the right to information and support throughout their cancer journey, including sexual relationships, and we're calling on our supporters and health professionals to help spread this message.
Some of the UK's most famous agony aunts are lending their support to this campaign and asking people to talk to their health professionals about the impact a cancer diagnosis could have on their sexual relationship.
'Cancer can leave a devastating legacy. People usually think of the hair loss and other outward signs of treatment, but often it is the internal damage it does to your sense of self that can be most distressing. It can leave your confidence shattered, body image low and make it psychologically or physically difficult to have sex.
'This can be a difficult and sensitive issue to talk about, whether you are in a relationship or thinking of starting a new one. This is completely normal though, and you are certainly not alone.'
'I've had so many letters from people who tell me that their love for their partner has intensified after seeing them undergo treatment for cancer. From a personal perspective, I have been that loving partner myself so I know what they say is true.
'That's why I'm dismayed to hear patient's confidence in their body and in being "lovable" has been diminished by their illness. A close relationship can be a valuable tool in fighting illness so it's important to talk through problems with one another and with your doctor or nurse.'
'The emotional effects of cancer and treatment can deeply affect your sexual relationship. If you are feeling anxious, tired, weak and afraid it is understandable that sex is the last thing on your mind.
'You need to try and find the courage to talk to your partner about how you are feeling about yourself and about sex. It does not help to let these thoughts just go round and round in your head without ever expressing how you really feel.'
'As an agony aunt, I'm very aware that cancer can impact on sexual relationships - yet it's a topic that still seems to be taboo. So I'm absolutely delighted about Macmillan's new campaign to raise awareness of the sexual problems cancer can trigger - and the solutions that are available.
'The first step is to realise that all of this is absolutely normal! The second step is to bring things out in the open, and make sure your health professional is brought into the discussion. Finally, don't be afraid - or ashamed - to get outside support at Macmillan.'
* A survey of 880 people
Scott and Rebecca talk about how they dealt with Rebecca's cervical cancer.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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