Dealing with changes in intimacy
There are a lot of questions and concerns when it comes to sex and intimacy after a cancer diagnosis and treatment. A person’s libido may change, sexual function could be altered, there could be actual physical boundaries as a result of surgery, medications could be changing your mood and your body chemistry, and women can sometimes experience early menopause.
Partners of the survivors might not understand the changes that are happening, and can become frustrated as a result.
It’s important to remain patient as everyone adjusts, and to keep the lines of communication open in the process. If you aren’t comfortable talking to your partner, or if you would like additional guidance, ask your doctor or gynecologist for advice on the situation. They might be able to suggest ways to approach the situation in a productive manner. There’s a good chance that if you’re feeling unsatisfied with your new sex life, your partner is, too.
It is also a good idea to consult your doctor to make sure your immune system is strong enough to handle any germs that could enter your body. Women should also inquire if any medications or chemotherapy are changing their bodies in a way that could cause injury during intercourse.
In “Sex and the female cancer patient” from the MD Anderson Cancer Centre, Andrea Bradford, Ph.D., psychologist and instructor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at MD Anderson, offers the following advice for couples dealing with sexual intimacy issues:
- Women can use a vaginal moisturizer several times a week and a lubricant for sex. If pain persists, low-dose vaginal estrogen can often help.
- Use relaxation techniques to reduce tension and ease into sex.
- Don’t rush into it, take the time to reestablish intimacy and sexual activity.
- Rethink old habits and expectations, and even “[take] intercourse off the table” while you reconnect.