Changes to sexuality and intimacy
Cancer of the uterus can change your body and how you feel about yourself, and both can affect sexuality.
Some treatments for cancer of the uterus can cause dryness and narrowing of the vagina. If this makes sexual penetration difficult or painful, you may have to explore different ways to orgasm or climax. Your treatment team may also advise using vaginal dilators, lubricants, moisturisers or hormone creams.
Other physical and emotional factors may affect your desire for sex (libido). These include the hormonal changes of menopause, the stress of the cancer experience, the fatigue caused by treatment, and changes in how you feel about your body (body image).
It may help to remember that for most people, sex is more than arousal, intercourse and orgasm. It involves feelings of intimacy and acceptance, as well as being able to give and receive love.
Give yourself time to get used to any physical or emotional changes. If you have a partner and do not feel like having sexual intercourse, or if you find it uncomfortable, talk openly with them about how you’re both feeling, and take things slowly by starting with hugs or a massage rather than penetrative sex. You may both need to be patient – things often improve with time and practice.
If you have ongoing concerns about how treatment has affected your sexuality, you can talk to your GP or gynaecological oncologist or ask for a referral to a sexual therapist.
A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Prof Jonathan Carter, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Dr Alison Davis, Medical Oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Nicole Kinnane, Nurse Coordinator, Gynaecology Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jennifer Loveridge, Consumer; Pauline Tanner, Gynaecology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, North Metropolitan Health Service, WA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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