Relationships and sexuality

A cancer diagnosis, treatment side effects and living with the uncertainty of infertility may affect your feelings towards your relationships and sexuality.

Whether or not you have a partner, it may be a good idea to find out your fertility status as soon as you feel ready. This way, you can reflect on what you want and/or start a conversation with a partner about what the future may hold.

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The effect on partners

Cancer, infertility and changes to your sexuality can put pressure on your relationship with a partner.

Your partner will also experience a range of emotions, which may include helplessness, frustration, fear, anger and sadness. How your relationship is affected may depend on how long you have been together, the strength of your relationship before cancer and/or infertility, and how well you communicate.

Everyone copes with infertility in their own way. Some partners are very supportive, while others avoid talking about it.

Fertility issues may become a source of unspoken tension between partners. If your partner is reluctant to participate in discussions about fertility, you might feel like you’re coping alone or making all the decisions. It can also be challenging if you and your partner disagree about what to do and focus on different outcomes. Seeing a fertility counsellor can help you cope with these issues.

Sexuality and intimacy

Sexuality is about who you are and how you feel as a man or woman. Being able to conceive a child may be part of your sexual identity, and infertility may change what you think about yourself. You may feel that sex is linked with the stress of infertility and you may lose interest in intimacy and sex (low libido).

Some cancer treatments may cause specific physical problems, such as pain during penetrative sex or erectile dysfunction. These problems may be difficult for you and for your partner, if you have one.

Fertility issues cause some people to have a negative body image or feel that their body has “let them down”. It will take time to accept any physical and emotional changes. It may be helpful to:

  • nurture your body with exercise, a healthy diet and sleep
  • set aside some time to have a date with a partner
  • think about what used to get you sexually stimulated and explore if it still does
  • experiment with things like masturbation, oral sex, sensual massage, lubrication and sex aids (e.g. vibrators or toys)
  • try to focus on enjoyment and pleasure, rather than conception
  • clearly communicate your feelings or boundaries to a partner (e.g. “I just want to cuddle now” or “That feels good”).

Counselling may also help. Ask your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for a referral to a counsellor in your local area. For more on this, see Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer.

Starting a new relationship

Many people deal with a cancer diagnosis without the support of a partner. If you wish to start a new relationship, you may find explaining fertility issues to a potential partner or new partner difficult. You might worry that they won’t be interested in you because you’ve had cancer, or because you can’t have children or have chosen not to.

Start the conversation when you feel ready. You may want to talk through the scenario with a friend, family member or health professional to practise what to say and think about answers to questions your partner may ask.

If you’re a young adult

During and after cancer treatment, young people want to continue living life as normally as possible. This may include having a boyfriend or girlfriend. You may feel confused about how much to share about your cancer diagnosis and the impact on your fertility.

CanTeen offers counselling to young people aged 12–24 who have been affected by cancer. This can be in person or by phone, email or instant messaging. It also runs online forums and camps. Call 1800 835 932 or visit

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Fertility and Cancer.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

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.

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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”.
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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.

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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
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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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.

This information was last reviewed in May 2018
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