Restoring your sex life
Whether you are single, in a relationship, heterosexual, gay, bisexual or transgender, cancer can affect your sexuality in both physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as the cancer treatment and its side effects, how you and your partner communicate, and your level of self-confidence. It may take some time to adjust to any changes to sex drive, which may also affect self-esteem and feelings of masculinity.
Learn more about:
Communicating with a new partner
Deciding when to tell a potential sexual partner about your cancer experience isn’t easy, and you may avoid dating for fear of rejection.
While the timing will be different for each person, it can be helpful to wait until you and your new partner have developed a mutual level of trust and caring. It is best to talk with a new partner about your concerns before becoming sexually intimate. By communicating openly, you avoid misunderstandings and may find that your partner is more accepting and supportive.
Managing changes in your sex life
- Talk about the changes and your feelings about sex. If you have a partner, these changes will probably affect you both. Reassure them that intimacy is still important to you.
- Focus on giving and receiving pleasure in different ways without expectations of sexual penetration. Other ways of expressing love include touching, holding, caressing and massage.
- Take time to get used to any changes. Look at yourself naked in the mirror and touch your genitals to feel any differences or soreness. Show your partner the changes so they can adjust to them.
- Start slowly – touch each other’s skin, then include genital touching.
- Attempt intercourse even with a partial erection. This stimulation may encourage more and better erections.
- Explore your ability to enjoy sex and understand any changes by masturbating.
- Ask your partner to help you reach orgasm through gentle hand-stroking. Use silicone-based lubricants for prolonged stimulation.
- Try different positions to find out what feels comfortable for both of you. Having sex while kneeling or standing may also help with erections.
- Use mindfulness techniques to help you stay in the moment with your partner. Listen to our meditation and relaxation audio tracks now.
- Talk to your doctor, a sexual health physician or counsellor if the changes are causing depression or problems in your relationship.
- Download this booklet on sexual issues after cancer treatment from Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
Podcast: Sex and Cancer
Dr Amy Hayden, Radiation Oncologist, Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals, and Chair, Faculty of Radiation Genito-Urinary Group (FROGG), The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, NSW; Prof Shomik Sengupta, Professor of Surgery and Deputy Head, Eastern Health Clinical School, Monash University, and Visiting Urologist and Uro-Oncology Lead, Urology Department, Eastern Health, VIC; A/Prof Arun Azad, Medical Oncologist, Urological and Prostate Cancers, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Ken Bezant, Consumer; Dr Marcus Dreosti, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, and Clinical Strategy Lead, Oncology Australia, SA; A/Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician, Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics and The University of Western Australia, WA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and HeadwayHealth Clinical and Consulting Psychology Services, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Western Australia; Graham Rees, Consumer; Kerry Santoro, Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; A/Prof David Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Matthew Starr, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. This booklet is funded through the generosity of the people of Australia.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.