Changes to your body caused by cancer or its treatment, can make you feel less masculine or feminine. Treatment may affect your ability to have sex because it can change how your sexual organs work. It can also change how you feel about sex. You may worry that sex will be painful, impossible or embarrassing.
You may have no desire for sex. This may leave you feeling sexually unattractive and can also affect your self-esteem and self-confidence. You may feel you want to withdraw from your partner. Some people avoid having sex.
Some people also worry that they may lose their husband, wife or partner if they can't fulfil their sexual needs. Talking to your partner about sex can be difficult. But discussing your fears and worries around sex can help you both to feel more comfortable with each other. Your partner may have concerns as well.
Being open with each other can often have a positive effect on a relationship and intimacy. If having sex is a worry, it may help to agree to avoid it for a while. This can take the pressure off and allow you to concentrate on rebuilding intimacy. For example, you can focus on spending time together and going out, holding hands or kissing and cuddling.
When both of you feel ready, you can move on to caressing non-intimate areas, then intimate areas and finally sexual intercourse.
If you're not in an intimate relationship with someone, the thought of starting one may seem daunting or impossible. You may worry about what or when to tell your partner about body changes. We often make assumptions about what others think or feel about us and fear rejection.
Sexuality can be difficult to talk about for most people, but health professionals, such as nurse specialists, can give you help and advice. Your healthcare team can also refer you to a sexual health specialist if that would help. These are experts in dealing with issues about intimacy and relationships and they can give you confidential advice and practical help.
There are a number of ways of dealing with concerns about relationships. Here’s an example you might find useful: