Sarah is sitting on a bed, looking at the camera and smiling.

Sarah on the effect of cancer on sexual pleasure

Published: 14 March 2024

Sarah is a gay woman who was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer and stage 1 womb cancer in 2020. She is passionate about discussing the stigma around gynaecological cancers, and the impact that treatments can have on sexual pleasure. She wants to make sure that inclusivity is at the heart of this.

Sarah spoke to us as part of 'We need to talk about sex and cancer' campaign


Meet Sarah

Not talking about how cancer changes our bodies as women, and our relationship with pleasure, at the start of our treatment is failing us. 

The part of my cancer experience I’m sharing is about sex and pleasure. This is really important. My surgery for ovarian and womb  cancer removed the whole of my reproductive system including my cervix (which is responsible for the intensity of our orgasms) leaving me with only 2cm of vagina. I wasn’t aware of how my pleasure would or could be affected. 

"Not starting important conversations about how cancer changes our bodies as women and our relationship with pleasure right at the very start of our surgery and treatment is failing us."

There wasn’t even a conversation that anyone from my oncology team had with me, most of them could barely use the word vagina or vulva. Within 12 hours of surgery, I was in my surgical menopause, again losing important hormones that enable us to feel pleasure as women. I was never told that I could lose my ability to achieve an orgasm and be diagnosed with anorgasmia after my surgery for gynaecological cancers. The lack of information from my medical team and conversations around how a woman’s intimate relationship with our bodies and sex can change during and after cancer treatment left me feeling invisible.

"My life has been limited by cancer and I deserve to feel pleasure again."

Before my cancer surgery and treatment, pleasure was important to me. Not just partnered pleasure but also self-pleasure. I enjoyed an orgasm before sleeping and often started the day with one too. After surgery, I quickly found out that I had lost the ability to orgasm. The shame and stigma that surrounds gynaecological cancers adds to the way we feel about our bodies. The parts of our bodies responsible for bringing life into the world and giving us pleasure is what’s limiting my life. My life has been limited by cancer and I deserve to feel pleasure again.