Impact on sexuality
Whether sexual intercourse is still possible depends on how much tissue was removed from the vagina. Sometimes radiation therapy or surgery to the pelvic area can also affect nerves and tissue in this area, causing scarring, narrowing of the vagina, swelling and soreness.
If scar tissue forms around the outside of the vagina, it can narrow the entrance to the vagina, making penetration during sex painful. Using extra lubrication may make sexual activity more comfortable. Choose a water-based or silicone-based gel without perfumes or colouring.
Sexual desire (libido)
Changes to the look and feel of your vagina can cause embarrassment, loss of sexual pleasure, and less interest in sex. The experience of having cancer can also reduce your desire for sex. You may wish to have counselling to help understand the impact treatment has had on your sexuality. A sex therapist or psychologist can help you (and your partner if you have one) adjust to changes and find new ways to express intimacy and enjoy sex. Ask your doctor for a referral.
For more on this, see Sexuality, intimacy and cancer and listen to our podcast below.
Podcast: Sex and Cancer
Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Gemma Busuttil, Radiation Therapist, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Ming-Yin Lin, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Lisa Mackenzie, Clinical Psychologist Registrar, HNE Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Hunter New England Local Health District, NSW; Anne Mellon, CNC – Gynaecological Oncology, HNE Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Hunter New England Local Health District, NSW; A/Prof Tarek Meniawy, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, WA; Dr Archana Rao, Gynaecological Oncologist, Senior Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer and Blood Disorders, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Angela Steenholdt, Consumer; Maria Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council QLD.
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