Treatment and sexuality

The most common cancer treatments are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. These treatments can have temporary or permanent effects on your sexuality.

Surgery

Surgery aims to remove the cancer from your body. It can potentially affect your sex organs and body image.

Bowel or rectal surgery

In most cases, when part or all of the bowel or rectum containing the cancer is removed, the bowel is joined back together.

In a small number of cases, because of the position or size of the cancer, the bowel is brought to an opening on the outside of the abdomen. This procedure is called a colostomy and the opening is called a stoma. Waste (faeces) is then collected in a disposable plastic bag attached to the stoma (colostomy bag). Sometimes a stoma is only needed for a short time, but in other cases it is permanent.

If you have had a stoma, you may feel self-conscious about the change in your body’s appearance and this may affect your desire to have sex.

In men, the surgeon may not be able to preserve the nerve function in the abdomen. This may make it difficult to have and/or sustain an erection (erectile dysfunction). Erection performance may improve over time but sometimes it is permanently affected.

Pelvic surgery

This surgery (pelvic exenteration) involves removing the major organs of the pelvis, including the uterus, cervix, vagina, bladder, and rectum. It can be done to treat advanced or recurrent cancer in the pelvic area, such as cervical, uterus, vulva or vaginal cancer. People who have this surgery will require a stoma to remove faeces from the body and a surgically created opening in the skin to remove urine from the body (vesicostomy).

In men, the prostate is removed, which will affect the ability to get and maintain an erection.

In women, this surgery involves the partial or complete removal of the vagina, cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes, ovaries and levator muscle (a broad, thin muscle situated to the side of the pelvis). It may also include removal of the vulva.

The emotional impact of having cancer and surgery is significant. It can affect your sexual identity and sexual confidence. Call 13 11 20 to talk with a counsellor or to find a sexual therapist.

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