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 factors, 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 because of the experience of having cancer and the side effects of treatment. If you do not feel like having sexual intercourse, or if you find it uncomfortable, let your partner know. It normally takes some time for sex to be comfortable again. You can also explore 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 (vaginal stenosis). These side effects can make sexual penetration difficult or painful, and 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.
A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecological Oncologists, TAS; Karina Campbell, Consumer; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Jim Nicklin, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Associate Professor Gynaecologic Oncology, The University of Queensland; Prof Martin K Oehler, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Dr Megan Smith, Program Manager – Cervix, Cancer Council NSW; Pauline Tanner, Cancer Nurse Coordinator – Gynaecology, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, WA; Tamara Wraith, Senior Clinician, Physiotherapy Department, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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