Sexual changes

Vulvar cancer can affect your sexuality in both 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).

Read more of Kayleen’s story

You may have to explore new ways to enjoy sex, but remember that for most people, sex is more than orgasms. It involves feelings of intimacy, as well as being able to give and receive 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 vaginal creams.
  • Extra lubrication may make intercourse more comfortable. Choose a water-based or silicone-based gel without perfumes or colouring.
  • Explore different ways to climax, such as caressing the breasts, inner thighs, feet or buttocks.
  • Talk about your feelings with your sexual partner or your doctor, or ask your treatment team for a referral to a sexual therapist or psychologist.

For more on this see Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer.

This information was last reviewed in October 2016.
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Cancer information

Sexuality, intimacy and cancer
Ways to adapt when cancer treatment affects your sexuality

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends