- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Sexuality, intimacy and cancer
- Overcoming specific challenges
- Removal of a body part
Removal of a body part
If your cancer treatment involved the removal of a limb, breast or part of your genitals, it can cause feelings of grief, loss and anger. It will take time to get used to how your body and body image have changed. All this can affect your sexual desire and your sexual confidence. Try to remind yourself that you are loved for who you are, not for your particular body parts. For ideas and information on restoring body image, see Changes in appearance.
People who’ve had a breast or testicle removed may want to consider a prosthesis to improve appearance and self-esteem. This is a personal decision. Your specialist can give you more detailed information about your options and what the procedure involves.
Men who have sex with men
Men who have sex with men may face particular issues after some types of surgery. If the prostate is removed, there may be reduced sexual pleasure and arousal during anal penetration. Research shows that gay and bisexual men can find these changes particularly difficult to come to terms with.
The removal of the anus is a major change, but many men still enjoy other types of sexual activities. However, intercourse via the stoma can be dangerous, and sexually transmitted infections can be passed on through the stoma.
For more information visit the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s website, and download the information pack for gay and bisexual men.
Tips for adjusting to the removal of a body part
- Look at yourself naked in the mirror to get used to the changes to your body or use a handheld mirror to see the genital area. Also show your partner the body changes. Accept that it may take time to feel comfortable about your body again.
- Touch your genitals to work out how your response has changed and what feels good. Explore other areas of your body that make you feel aroused when touched. This may take time and practice.
- If you are worried about the reaction of your partner (or a potential partner), remember that good communication will help. Sharing your concerns and keeping an open mind will help you explore new ways to be intimate.
- Ask your partner to stroke different areas of your body if your usual erogenous zone has been affected. This may include kissing and touching your neck, ears, inner thighs and genital area.
- If you’ve had a limb removed, try wearing your limb prosthesis during sex. If you prefer to take off the prosthesis, use pillows to support the affected limb.
- Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to talk to someone neutral about your feelings.
- Register for a Look Good Feel Better workshop or call 1800 650 960.
- Talk to a sexual health physician or sexual therapist about the ways any change to your body may be affecting your sex life and relationship. See The Society of Australian Sexologists Ltd to find an accredited sexologist near you.
For more on this, see Breast Prostheses and Reconstruction.
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.