Impact on sex life

The physical changes to your body after the operation will mean changes to your sex life. You’ll need to make both physical and emotional adjustments. The operation varies from person to person, and the effects it has on sexuality will also vary. Your surgeon and specialist nurse will talk you through the changes you may experience.

Although the vagina is removed during pelvic exenteration, the clitoris (through which women have orgasms) usually remains, and many women can still have pleasure from being touched in this area.

If you’ve had a vaginal reconstruction, sexual intercourse will be possible once you’ve healed. But you may need to try different positions to find what feels most comfortable for you. You’ll also need to use lubricant gels before sex because the new vagina won’t make its own lubrication. Your specialist nurse can tell you about these and can give you advice on coping with any difficulties you may have.

Many people have worries and concerns about sex when they first have a stoma. Your stoma nurse will have experience of helping people through this and will be able to give you advice and support. Stoma support organisations also produce information you may find helpful.

Adjusting to changes in how your body looks and responds takes time. Many people need to talk through their feelings and emotions. Some feel nervous about how their partner will react to their body. There is no right or wrong time, or way, to talk about these issues. You can wait until you and your partner feel ready. You may want to consider seeing a sex therapist or counsellor. Your GP or specialist nurse or doctor can refer you. There are also a number of organisations that can give you information, advice and support about relationships and sexual intimacy.

We have more information about cancer and sexuality.

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Having pelvic exenteration

Pelvic exenteration takes about eight hours. After the operation, you will have new ways for urine and bowel motions to leave your body.