How cancer may affect your sexuality

Sexuality is the feelings and characteristics that make up your sexual identity. It’s about who you are and how you feel as a person. Sexuality is a very personal matter and means different things to different people.

Sexual attitudes and behaviour vary a lot from person to person. They’re influenced by our experiences, our upbringing, our genetic make-up, our cultural and religious beliefs, and our hormones. Sexual attitudes and behaviour can change due to different circumstances, and they can vary at different times during our lives.

You are a unique individual and your sexuality is part of who you are. There are many different sexual preferences. Your sexuality isn’t fixed – you can change your mind, find new things pleasurable and communicate in new ways. Following a cancer diagnosis and treatment, you can still feel good about who you are, and how you express your sexuality with others.

Effects of cancer on sexuality

It’s very difficult to predict how cancer and its treatment will affect you. For many people, any changes in their sexuality will be temporary. However, you may need to get used to permanent changes and find new ways of giving and receiving sexual pleasure. With support and clear communication, you will still be able to enjoy a fulfilling sex life.

There are four main ways that cancer or its treatment can affect your sexuality. It can affect your:

  • physical ability to give and receive sexual pleasure
  • thoughts and feelings about your body (body image)
  • emotions, such as fear, sadness, anger and joy
  • roles and relationships.

These areas are linked – if there’s a problem in one of them, it may have an impact on another.

Having cancer can affect how you feel about yourself sexually, or it can affect your physical ability to enjoy sex. Many people with cancer say they feel ‘washed out’ and have almost no energy for many months or even years. This may be because of the cancer itself or the treatment. This tiredness can make you lose interest in sex both during and after treatment.

Back to Your sex life and sexuality

Sexuality and your feelings

It’s normal for cancer to affect how you feel about sex. But, there are things that can help.

Sexuality and relationships

If you are having problems with your sex life, there are things that you can do to help.

Common questions about sexuality and cancer

There may be questions you have about sex when you are given a cancer diagnosis.