Sex after treatment

Womb cancer, its treatment and their side effects may affect your sex life and how you feel about yourself as a woman. Some treatments, like a hysterectomy, will cause the menopause.

Some common side effects of the menopause include:

  • hot flushes and sweats
  • vaginal dryness
  • low sex drive
  • emotional symptoms
  • bone thinning.

Other treatments for womb cancer, like radiotherapy to the pelvic area, can cause vaginal changes. Changes can include:

  • vaginal narrowing
  • vaginal dryness.

These side effects should gradually improve after treatment, although it may take longer for some women. If you don’t feel like having sex, you can wait until you and your partner feel ready – there’s no right or wrong time.

There are ways to manage menopausal symptoms and vaginal changes. Speak to your doctor or nurse if you’re having problems with your sex life. They may be able to reassure you and offer help and support.

Sex after treatment

Womb cancer, its treatments and their side effects may affect your sex life and how you feel about yourself as a woman.

This should gradually improve after treatment, although for some women it may take longer. Try not to think that sex is never going to be important in your life again. There may be a period of adjustment for you and your partner, if you have one.

Cuddles, kisses and massages are affectionate and sensual ways of showing how much you care for someone, even if you don’t feel like having sex. You can wait until you and your partner feel ready – there’s no right or wrong time.

It’s common to feel nervous about sex after cancer treatment. But it’s perfectly safe for both you and your partner. At first, it may be easier to take more time to help you relax and for your partner to be very gentle.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you’re having problems with your sex life. They may be able to reassure you and offer help and support. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your doctor or nurse, you can call us on 0808 808 00 00. Some people may find it helpful to talk to a sex therapist. You can contact a therapist through The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists.

We have more detailed information for women about sexuality and cancer.

Sex and cancer - tips for women

Isabel White gives advice and demonstrates the tools available to women to help with possible sexual side effects of cancer treatment.

About our cancer information videos

Sex and cancer - tips for women

Isabel White gives advice and demonstrates the tools available to women to help with possible sexual side effects of cancer treatment.

About our cancer information videos


Menopausal symptoms

If you haven’t been through the menopause, a hysterectomy that involves removing your ovaries will cause the menopause straight away.

Women who have radiotherapy without any surgery will also have their menopause. This is because radiotherapy stops the ovaries from working. Some common symptoms of the menopause include:

Hot flushes and sweats

Low doses of antidepressant drugs can be prescribed to reduce flushes.

Vaginal dryness

Non-hormonal creams and water-based lubricants help reduce discomfort during sex.

Low sex drive

Vaginal changes can reduce your sex drive. However, getting help to manage these changes can improve things for many women.

Emotional symptoms

These can include mood swings, feeling anxious, and problems with concentration and memory. Talking about your feelings with your family, friends, doctor or nurse can help. Some women find it helps to talk things through with a counsellor.

Bone thinning

An early menopause can increase the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis). We have information to help you look after your bones.


Your doctor or specialist nurse can give you advice on how to manage symptoms and sometimes drugs can be prescribed to reduce hot flushes.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) isn’t usually advised after womb cancer because it contains oestrogen. But there’s no evidence that it increases the risk of the cancer coming back.
Some cancer specialists may prescribe HRT for women who had early womb cancer and who are having troublesome menopausal symptoms. This may be prescribed when other measures haven’t worked.

A number of organisations, including the Daisy Network, provide support to women going through the menopause.


Vaginal changes

Radiotherapy to the pelvis can make the vagina narrower and less stretchy. It also reduces the natural lubrication in the vagina, making it drier. This can make having sex or an internal medical examination uncomfortable, so it’s important to try to keep the vagina from narrowing. Your specialist nurse will explain more about this and answer any questions you may have. Don’t feel embarrassed – they are used to discussing these issues.

Vaginal dilators

Your hospital team may recommend you use vaginal dilators to try to prevent the vagina from narrowing. Dilators are tampon-shaped plastic tubes of different sizes that are used with a lubricant. Although they are commonly used, there isn’t strong evidence to say how effective they are. Rarely, they may cause damage to the vagina, especially if they aren’t used correctly. Your specialist nurse or doctor will explain how best to use them in your particular situation.

Having regular penetrative sex, using a dildo, a vibrator or lubricated fingers may also help keep the vagina from narrowing.

Even if you are having regular sex, you may still be advised to use a dilator.

Vaginal dryness

Different creams, gels, lubricants or pessaries (small pellets that are put inside the vagina) can help with this. Your doctor may recommend using vaginal oestrogen creams or pessaries, which can be prescribed. Although your body absorbs some oestrogen from these products, doctors think it’s too small an amount to be harmful. Your cancer doctor will tell you if it’s advisable for you to take these.

There are lots of products to improve vaginal dryness that you can buy from most chemists and some supermarkets. For example, Replens MD® cream or water-based lubricants such as Senselle®, Astroglide®, Sylk®, Vielle® or Durex® lube. Vaginal dryness can make you more likely to get infections, such as thrush. Let your doctor know if you have symptoms such as itching or soreness.