Emotions, sexuality and cancer treatment

It is normal to feel a range of emotions when dealing with cancer and its treatment. Some of the emotions you may feel include:

Anger – You may feel angry about having cancer and about the ways it has affected your life, including your sexuality or your ability to have children (fertility).

Anxiety – The thought of having sex again after treatment can cause anxiety. You may be unsure how you’ll perform, dread being touched, or feel self-conscious about being seen naked. If you’re single, you may feel anxious about getting involved in a new relationship. Worrying that you’re not satisfying your partner sexually can also cause distress.

Fear – You may worry that others will avoid or reject you when they see how your body has changed. You may not be able to imagine yourself in a sexual situation again.

Guilt – Many people think they should just be grateful to have the cancer treated and feel guilty for thinking about sex or their sexual needs. Some people wonder if past sexual activity has contributed to their cancer. Cancer is not sexually transmitted, but some cancers may be linked to a sexually transmitted infection.

Self-consciousness – If your body has changed physically after treatment, you may feel self-conscious. Often people discover that their partner isn’t as concerned about these changes as they are.

Shame – You may feel ashamed by changes that affect your sexuality, your appearance or the way your body functions.

Depression – Symptoms of depression can include feeling sad, irritable or anxious, having trouble sleeping, losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed, poor appetite and a decreased interest in sex (low libido).

Grief – You may grieve for your former body and sex life if things have changed significantly. These feelings can affect your self-esteem, sexuality and attitude towards intimacy. It can help to talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust and feel comfortable with, such as your partner, another person who has had cancer, or your doctor, cancer nurse coordinator or counsellor. Call 13 11 20 for a free copy of the Emotions and Cancer booklet.

Common sexual problems associated with cancer treatment


  • losing interest in sex
  • tiredness and lethargy (fatigue)
  • losing a body part, such as a reproductive organ or breast
  • changed body image, e.g. due to scarring, loss of a body part or changes in weight
  • fertility problems (temporary or permanent)
  • painful intercourse
  • depression and anxiety
  • strain on, or changes to, your relationship(s).


Specific problems for men may include:

  • erectile dysfunction
  • ejaculation difficulties.


Specific problems for women may include:

  • trouble reaching an orgasm
  • vaginal dryness
  • reduced vaginal size
  • loss of sensation
  • pelvic pain
  • menopausal symptoms
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


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.