Sexuality And Cancer
Sexual health challenges are common among people who have or had cancer, as the disease and its treatment can affect patients physically and emotionally. With cervical cancer treatment, sexual functioning can be affected in a number of ways. Radiation therapy can cause vaginal dryness or irritation making sex painful. It can also cause a condition called vaginal stenosis, in which the vagina becomes narrower and shorter, which can also cause pain during or after penetrative sex. While chemotherapy itself does not affect sexual functioning, its associated side effects like nausea and diarrhea can lower interest in sex. Treatment for cervical cancer can also cause changes in self esteem and body image, and cause difficulties in becoming aroused or achieving orgasm.
Even though sexual issues for cervical cancer patients are common, healthcare providers often don’t address them with patients. The focus is often exclusively on treating the disease, with little attention paid to other areas of a patient’s life. But it is important for patients and providers to talk about sexual health and the impact of cancer and its treatment. There are ways to manage sexual difficulties and address any issues that may result from treatment.
The resources on this page explain some of the types of sexual health issues women may experience before and after treatment and offer solutions to problems women dealing with cancer can face.
How Cancer Treatment Affects Sexuality in Women
In this video from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Sharon Bober, Director of the Sexual Health Program discusses treatment options, such as hormonal replacement therapy, physical therapy and vaginal dilation to help women regain their sexual functioning after cancer.
Painful Sex and Menopause
NCCC’s parent company ASHA, in partnership with WebMD Education, has created a program to help women learn more about taking charge of their sexual health during menopause, both for women who experience menopause as a result of aging and women who may have entered early menopause due to treatment for cancer. In this program, women and their partners can learn about changes during menopause that may lead to vaginal dryness and painful sex; ways to get relief with over-the-counter or prescription medicines; and how to talk with a healthcare provider about any concerns. NCCC chapter leader Alegra Woodard also shares her experiences after going into early menopause after cancer treatment.
#LetsTalk: Sex and Intimacy After Cervical Cancer
In this video from the, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, women talk about sex and intimacy after cervical cancer – coming to terms with the physical and emotional impact of a diagnosis and treatment, coping with the effects of treatment on the vagina and finding a new normal with a partner.
Renewing Intimacy and Sexuality after Gynecologic Cancer
The booklet from the Foundation for Women’s Cancer addresses common, important questions women have during and following treatment for gynecological cancer, including cervical cancer. Among the issues addresses are issues with sexual functioning following radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery and communicating with a partner about sexual issues. it also offers recommendations for improving libido and
intimacy during chemotherapy.