Impact on sexuality and intimacy
Having cervical cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many things, such as your treatment and its side effects, whether you have a partner, and your overall self-confidence.
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A lack of interest in sex or loss of desire is common during and after treatment. This may be because of the worry of having cancer and the side effects of treatment. If you do not feel like having sex, or if you find it uncomfortable, let your partner know.
It normally takes some time for sex to be comfortable again. You can also try other ways to be intimate, such as massage and cuddling. Learn some ways to manage sexual changes.
The main side effect of treatment for cervical cancer will be to the vagina. If the ovaries have been affected by surgery or radiation therapy, they will no longer produce oestrogen. This will cause your vagina to become very dry and it may not expand easily during sexual intercourse. Radiation therapy to the pelvic area can also cause vaginal tissue to lose its elasticity and shrink, narrowing the vagina. This is known as vaginal stenosis.
If vaginal changes make sexual penetration difficult or painful, you may have to explore different ways to orgasm or climax. Learn some ways to keep your vagina open and more elastic. If you need more support resuming sexual activity, ask your doctor for a referral to a sexual therapist or psychologist, and see Sexuality, intimacy and cancer.
Podcast: Sex and Cancer
Dr Pearly Khaw, Lead Radiation Oncologist, Gynae-Tumour Stream, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Deborah Neesham, Gynaecological Oncologist, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Frances Perry House, VIC; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, VIC; Dr Alison Davis, Medical Oncologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Krystle Drewitt, Consumer; Shannon Philp, Nurse Practitioner, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and The University of Sydney Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, NSW; Dr Robyn Sayer, Gynaecological Oncologist Cancer Surgeon, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Megan Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Cancer Council NSW; Melissa Whalen, Consumer.
We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.