Talking to your partner, family or friends

Some people find it easy to talk about sex and relationships. Others feel embarrassed just thinking about it. It may not be easy, but talking about a problem can be the first step towards dealing with it.

Try to find someone that you trust and feel comfortable talking to. This could be a partner, family member, friend or a professional. You could talk face to face or on the phone. Or you may find it easier to send an email, letter or text.

It might help to think about:

  • what you want to say and why
  • how the other person might react
  • how you may feel about their reaction.

It can help to let the other person know that you want to talk about something private. Some people may not know that cancer and cancer treatment can affect your sex life or fertility. They may not know what to say, or may have their own feelings to cope with. Even people who understand can find it difficult to talk about these issues.

Talking to a partner

If you are in a relationship, try to be honest about how you feel. If cancer or treatment has changed how you feel about your body or sex, let your partner know. This gives them the chance to understand and support you. You might also find they have questions to ask you. Try to listen to, and answer, each other’s questions and concerns.

Talking to a friend

You may find it difficult to talk to your friends after being diagnosed with cancer. You may feel that even your closest friends don’t understand what you are going through. It may help to explain to one or two friends what it’s like for you.

Some people find it easier to talk to someone who has had cancer treatment. Some organisations run support groups or online groups. Or ask your healthcare team for information about groups in your area. If you are 16 or over, you can join our online community.

Talking to family

All families are different. Some talk about relationships and sex openly, while others might not. There may be people in your family who you are used to sharing everything with. But it can sometimes be difficult to talk about certain things, especially if you find that they get upset.

Some families and communities have strong views about fertility and having fertility treatments. They may also have opinions about being straight, gay, bisexual or trans. This could make it more difficult to talk openly about relationships and sex with them – especially if they don’t know that cancer and its treatment affect these things. You may find that people sometimes seem insensitive, but they may not realise the effect of what they are saying.

If you are worried about talking to your family, it may help to speak to someone from your healthcare team first. They may be able to give you advice and support. Sometimes they can help you prepare for a difficult conversation, or be with you when you talk to your family.