Resuming sexual activity after treatment

While some people find sexual intimacy is the last thing on their mind after treatment, others experience an increased need for closeness. An intimate connection with a partner can make you feel loved and supported as you come to terms with the impact of cancer. However, cancer can strain a relationship, particularly if you had relationship or intimacy problems before the diagnosis.

Cancer need not mean the end of your sexual life. But you may need to develop more openness and confidence, in and out of the bedroom. Your favourite love-making positions may become less comfortable temporarily or change over time. Try to keep an open mind about ways to feel sexual pleasure.

Adapting to changes

There are many ways to prepare for sex during or after treatment:

  • Talk openly with your partner – about any fears you have about resuming sexual activity.
  • Let your partner know how you feel – when you’re ready to have sex, what level of intensity you prefer, if they should do anything differently and how they can help you to feel pleasure.
  • Ask your partner how they are feeling – they may be worried about hurting you or appearing too eager.
  • Take it slowly – It may be easier to start with cuddles or a sensual massage the first few times rather than penetrative sex.
  • Plan ahead – sex may need to be less spontaneous after treatment. Choosing the time can help deal with pain and fatigue, and help build arousal.
  • Focus on other aspects of your relationship – many relationships are not dependent on sex. But be mindful if this is a problem for your partner.
  • Try exploring your sexuality on your own – to develop an understanding of what’s changed and what feels good, then talk about this with your partner.
  • Be patient – Things often improve with time and practice.

Staying sexually confident

If you feel unsure about yourself as a result of the cancer, you may also lack confidence sexually. It can be especially difficult to maintain sexual self-esteem if you are feeling unwell and still working, all while coming to terms with having cancer. Things that make you feel good and lift your general sense of wellbeing will help to improve your sexual confidence.

Sexual attractiveness is sometimes judged by physical characteristics, but sex appeal is a combination of looks and other personal attributes such as personality and sense of humour. It may help to express how you feel with your partner, a friend or family member you can trust, or a doctor or counsellor.

Masturbation

Self-pleasuring (masturbation) can be a positive and satisfying way to enjoy sexual activity when you don’t have a partner or if you’re not ready for intimacy with a partner. It can help you find out what your body is capable of sexually. Many couples enjoy mutual masturbation as an alternative to penetrative sex.

If you have had treatment in your breast or genital region, it may help to spend time alone touching these areas to find out if there is soreness or numbness, what feels different and what feels good. This preparation may help to let your partner know what feels good and what doesn’t when you are ready to be intimate.

This information was last reviewed in May 2013

This information has been reviewed by: Dr Lesley Yee, Sexual Health Physician and Psychotherapist, Australian Centre for Sexual Health, NSW; Sandy Hutchison, Executive Manager, Cancer Counselling, Cancer Council Queensland; Helena Green, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Breast Nurse, Sexologist, RELATE Sexuality, WA; Sam Gibson, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St John of God Subiaco Hospital, WA; Carole Arbuckle, Cancer Support Nurse, Cancer Council Victoria; Deb Roffe, Gynaecological Research Nurse, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, QLD; and Garth Wootton, Consumer.

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Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.