- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Sexuality, intimacy and cancer
- Overcoming specific challenges
After surgery you may feel sore for several weeks or longer in some cases. You may find it uncomfortable to be touched or hugged if the wounds from the surgery are still healing or if the area around the scar is painful. Pain can reduce your interest and pleasure in sex and distract you from reaching orgasm. It may also mean the positions you enjoyed having sex in are now uncomfortable or you may be worried about hurting your partner. The medicines you are taking may make you feel drowsy and tired, which may affect your libido.
Irritation of the prostate or urethra from surgery or radiation therapy can cause painful orgasms. If you have developed scar tissue in the penis after surgery, this may cause pain or bleeding, but it usually settles down in time. Anal sex can be painful after radiation treatment for prostate or anal cancer.
Pelvic surgery, radiation therapy or treatment that affects hormones can reduce the size or moistness of the vagina, which can make intercourse painful. Fear of pain can cause the muscles around the vagina to become tight (vaginismus), and this can make penetration difficult or impossible.
After my big operation I had quite a bit of pain and I would just basically either take the pain medication that they give you or just try and get into a comfortable position with the pillows around you.
Tips for managing pain
Making penetrative sex more comfortable
|For more on this, see Pain and cancer or listen to our Managing Cancer Pain podcast.|
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.
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