Impact on sexuality
Vulvar cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. Treatment can cause physical side effects such as tiredness, scarring, narrowing of the vagina, swelling and soreness. The experience of having cancer can also reduce your desire for sex (libido).
Many women are able to have sexual intercourse after treatment. Others may have to explore new ways to enjoy sex, but 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 and love.
Tips for managing sexual changes
- Give yourself time to get used to any physical changes. Let your partner know if you don’t feel like having sex, or if you find penetration uncomfortable.
- Talk to your doctor about ways to manage side effects that change your sex life. This may include using vaginal dilators and creams.
- Explore other ways to climax, such as caressing the breasts, inner thighs, feet or buttocks.
- Extra lubrication may make intercourse more comfortable. Choose a water-based or silicone-based gel without perfumes or colouring.
- Talk about your feelings with your sexual partner or doctor, or ask for a referral to a sexual therapist or psychologist.
- See Cancer Australia’s publication Intimacy and sexuality for women with gynaecological cancer – starting a conversation.
Prof Jonathan Carter, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Professor of Gynaecological Oncology, The University of Sydney, NSW; Ellen Barlow, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gynaecological Cancer Centre, The Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Dr Dani Bullen, Clinical Psychologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Wendy Cram, Consumer; Dr Tiffany Daly, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Oncology Princess Alexandra Raymond Terrace (ROPART), South Brisbane, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Westmead Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Anya Traill, Head of Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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