Impact on sexuality
Vaginal cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. Sometimes radiation therapy or surgery to the pelvic area can affect nerves and tissue in this area, causing scarring, narrowing of the vagina, swelling and soreness. The experience of having cancer can also reduce your desire for sex (libido).
Take time to explore and touch your body to find out what feels good. Many people are able to have sexual intercourse after treatment and some can still experience an orgasm even if their clitoris has been removed. Others may have to try different sexual positions or activities.
Remember that for most people, sex is more than just intercourse. It involves feelings of intimacy, as well as being able to give and receive pleasure.
A sex therapist or psychologist can help you adjust to changes and help you find new ways to express intimacy and enjoy sex.
Tips for managing sexual changes
- Give yourself time to get used to any physical changes.
- Talk about your feelings with your sexual partner, if you have one. Let them know if you don’t feel like having sex, or if you find intercourse uncomfortable.
- Talk to your doctor about ways to manage side effects that change your sex life.
- Explore other ways to climax, such as caressing the breasts, inner thighs, feet or buttocks.
- See Cancer Australia’s publication Intimacy and sexuality for women with gynaecological cancer – starting a conversation.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Ellen Barlow, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Jane Conroy-Wright, Consumer; Rebecca James, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Suparna Karpe, Clinical Psychologist, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Sally McCoull, Consumer; A/Prof Orla McNally, Gynaecological Oncologist and Director, Oncology/Dysplasia, The Royal Women’s Hospital, and Director, Gynaecology Tumour Stream,Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Haley McNamara, Social Worker and Project Manager, Care at End of Life Project, Queensland Health, QLD; Tamara Wraith, Senior Clinician – Physiotherapy, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.