Sexual Difficulties

Sexual Difficulties

“Altered sexuality” is one of the top concerns of people with cancer, however, it is not addressed by most doctors. Many people feel embarrassed or awkward to bring up this topic with their doctors. However, sexual problems are relatively common among people with cancer and can negatively affect your and your partner’s quality of life. No matter your age, your sexuality is important and worthy of your and your doctors attention.

Sexual problems can be caused by several sources:1

  • Effects of the cancer and/or its treatment
  • Drugs used to treat symptoms and other conditions
  • Anxiety, depression, worries, stress, fatigue, pain, insomnia, nausea or changes in your appearance
  • Hormonal changes
  • Changes to nerves or sexual organs and tissues.

Fertility is also a concern for those who are still in their reproductive years and must be addressed before starting treatment that can alter fertility.

Talking about your sexual function with your healthcare team even before there is a problem is key, as some potential problems—such as fertility or potential nerve damage—should be considered before treatment. If problems arise, let your healthcare team know sooner rather than later.

Key Points

  • Sexual problems are relatively common among people with cancer and can affect your partner’s quailty of life.
  • No matter your age it is important to speak to your healthcare professionals about your care.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your healthcare professional and ask what can be done to help you.
  • Conventional as well as integrative therapies and lifestyle practices may help manage sexual difficulties.

Managing Sexual Difficulties

In addition to conventional interventions for sexual problems, integrative therapies and lifestyle practices may also help:

  • Mind-body approaches including these:
    • Counseling
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • Qigong
    • Tai chi
  • Moving more
  • Eating well
  • Sleeping well
  • Sharing love and support

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