- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Sexuality, intimacy and cancer
- Overcoming specific challenges
Feeling anxious and scared is a normal reaction to a cancer diagnosis and its treatment. You might also be worried about having sex after treatment, concerned that it will hurt. As a result you may lose interest in sex and find yourself avoiding it.
You may feel less anxious if you find out more about your illness and ask your treatment team what to expect. Think about how you have managed stressful situations in the past and discuss these strategies with your partner or a trusted family member or friend.
Tips for managing anxiety
- Ask your doctor if anti-anxiety medicine will help. Be aware that some medicines may lower your libido.
- Try mindfulness-based techniques, including deep relaxation and meditation. Relaxing your body and mind often helps you to feel more in control and able to cope with fear, tension and anxiety. Listen to our meditation and relaxation audio tracks.
- If you feel like your thoughts are becoming negative and hard to control, consider cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). This can show you how to change unhelpful patterns of thinking that might be getting in the way of a fulfilling sex life. A psychologist could help you learn CBT. You can also call 13 11 20 to ask about online CBT guides.
- Share your thoughts with your partner. It will show you trust them and help create intimacy.
- Consider having counselling to learn how to manage anxiety. See a social worker or psychologist.
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.