How does cancer change your sex life?

A quick scan of the American Cancer Society’s resources on the fertility and sexual side effects of cancer reveals something interesting: On just about every page of the organization’s site, a version of the same phrase is included—and bolded: “Don’t assume your doctor or nurse will ask you about these and other concerns about sexuality. You might have to start the conversation.” Cancer and its various treatments impact sexuality in profound ways. Treatment for gynecologic cancers, for example, can remove key reproductive organs or send women into early menopause, taking away their ability to have children; physical and hormonal changes can contribute to body image issues, depression, and anxiety. In both men and women, intimacy and fertility can be affected by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation as well. These things are known. They are studied. Throughout treatmentand even after cancer was cured many of her patients struggled with issues of intimacy, sexuality, and early menopause but rarely spoke about them. These issues weren’t just common, they were debilitating. We’re all intimate beings. It’s about listening to the patient and figuring out what their needs are. Back then, traditional cancer treatment was only about curing cancer; it didn’t offer solutions for issues of intimacy. We feel this void in cancer care. “\So much of what we do affects sexual health, intimacy, and quality of life in a paramount way, yet we had absolutely nothing in terms of treatment that acknowledged this.

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