- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Sexuality, intimacy and cancer
- Treatment side effects and sexuality
- Palliative treatment
Palliative treatment helps to improve people’s quality of life by managing the symptoms of cancer without trying to cure the disease. It is best thought of as supportive care. Many people think that palliative treatment is for people at the end of life, but it may be beneficial for people at any stage of advanced cancer. As well as slowing the spread of cancer, palliative treatment can relieve pain and help manage other symptoms. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapies or other medicines.
Many people say that sexuality and intimacy remain important to them even when cancer is advanced. It is okay to talk to your health care team about the impact of any treatment on your sex life or your ability to be intimate. If you have a partner, try to spend time together as a couple, rather than as “patient” and “carer”, during palliative treatment. Ask your treatment team if it’s possible to use a double bed so you can cuddle with your partner. Intimacy can provide comfort and maintain connection during this time. Even if sexual intercourse is no longer possible or desired, you may enjoy physical closeness through touching, massage or simply lying beside each other.
Palliative treatment is one aspect of palliative care, in which a team of health professionals aim to meet your physical, emotional, practical, spiritual and social needs. The team also provides support to families and carers.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Helena Green, Clinical Sexologist and Counsellor, inSync for Life, WA; Anita Brown-Major, Occupational Therapist, Thrive Rehab, VIC; Karina Campbell, Consumer; Nicole Kinnane, Nurse Consultant, Gynae-oncology Services, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Headway Health and Concord Hospital, NSW; Chris Rivett, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Kath Schubach, Urology Nurse Practitioner, President – Australia and New Zealand Urological Nurses Society (ANZUNS), VIC; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Maria Voukelatos, Consumer. We would like to thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.