Your sex life

Treatments for rectal cancer can affect your sex life and how you see yourself (your body image).

You may feel too exhausted to have sex during treatment and for a while afterwards. Most people find that this gradually improves, but occasionally it can last for months or even longer.

Sometimes, surgery can damage the nerves of sexual organs. If this happens, a man may not be able to have or maintain an erection. There can also be problems with orgasm and ejaculation. Women may also find that their sexual function or response is affected. Orgasm may be less intense than before and it may take longer to reach orgasm. This may be because of changes to blood flow and nerves in the pelvic and genital area. These changes may improve over time, but are sometimes permanent.

Sildenafil (Viagra®) may help a man to get erections. If you are having erection difficulties, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Treatment is often more effective if started sooner.

After your operation, you may have a scar or stoma. If you feel self-conscious about changes to your body, it can affect your sexual desire. Talking about your feelings may help reduce your anxiety.

If you are having any sexual difficulties, talk to your doctor or nurse. There are often things that can be done to help. Some people find it difficult to talk about sexual issues because they feel embarrassed or self-conscious. Your doctor, stoma care nurse or specialist nurse will be used to talking about these issues. They can give you advice and refer you for specialist help and support if necessary.

We have more information about sexuality and cancer for both men and women. We explain the effects cancer and its treatments can have on sexuality. We also offer ways of coping and solutions to sexual problems.

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