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Intimacy and Cancer

As a result of your cancer and treatment, your body may undergo changes – some of these, such as losing your hair are temporary. Others may be permanent. These changes can have a profound impact your body image.

  • Cancer can put a strain on intimate relationships. If your physical appearance has changed, you may feel less attractive or desirable.
  • Men and women may both experience symptoms from their cancer treatments, as well as the disease itself. You should discuss your concerns with your physicians – they may be able to prescribe medications or recommend specific treatment.
  • If you and your partner are planning to add to your family, you should talk with your doctor. Some treatments can impact your fertility. It’s not advisable for women to become pregnant during cancer treatment, and you should ask your doctor how long you should use birth control after treatment.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse if your red and white blood cell counts are high enough to have sex safely.
  • Your interest in and ability to have sex may change after treatment. These may be short-term in nature.
  • Communication is key – talk with your partner to discuss how both of you are feeling.
  • If physical intimacy is difficult, explore alternative methods with your partner such as hugging, caressing, holding hands, or intimate touching.

In some cases, support groups or professional counseling may be helpful. The American Cancer Society (ACS) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) both offer extensive information on cancer and intimacy.

  • The ACS offers free booklets, Sexuality for the Man with Cancer and Sexuality for the Woman with Cancer. Both are available on their website.
  • The NCI’s Sexuality and Fertility section provides information on numerous topics.