How Will Having Cancer Affect My Relationship?

It’s normal to have some long and short-term relationships. If you are in a relationship, your partner means a lot to you and he or she gives you support and love. When you are faced with cancer, you may feel differently about a lot of things, including your relationship. This is normal.

When it comes to a person you have a sexual relationship with, you may feel different because you are thinking about your health. Or maybe you just do not feel like yourself. This is normal.

You may not feel like being close in a sexual way with another person when you think that you look different. Cancer treatments can change your body in ways you think make you less attractive. These changes may include losing your hair, losing or gaining weight, or having scars from surgery. It’s normal not to feel like having sex when you are concerned about how you look.

You may also feel very tired. Having less energy can make you less interested in having sex. Fatigue can last a long time, even after treatment has stopped.

These changes in your body and mind affect how you respond to sexual thoughts and situations. You may not get as hard (aroused) or come (cum, ejaculate) as usual. It’s important to  remember most changes are temporary.


It can help to talk about it

Even though it can be hard to open up, you may feel relieved if you tell your partner about your feelings, worries, or fears. Talking helps you understand each other’s feelings and support each other. Together, you may find new ways to work around problems and make changes in your relationship.

If you feel stressed out or overwhelmed, you may find it helpful to talk with a sympathetic person. This could be a close friend, family member or another person who has cancer.

Please consider talking to a member of your healthcare team. Although it may be hard to bring up this topic, we are used to discussing sex with patients.

Find ways to stay close

You may feel too tired, weal or unwell to have sex. At the same time, you may be worried that you aren’t satisfying your partner’s sexual needs. Don’t worry. Relationships can survive without sex.

Even though you aren’t having sex, both of you still need to feel loved and be touched. Find ways to be close by spending time alone touching, holding or kissing each other.

When can I have sex again?

With time, your usual sexual feelings will return. You may have sex when you feel ready. And it’s okay to wait until you have completely recovered.

When you are ready, take it slow. Let your partner know how you feel. Tell her or him what you would like and what feels good. Depending on your health, you may need to find new ways of pleasing each other. For example, you may need to change positions to make having sex more comfortable

Sometimes there are medical risks. For example, it’s not safe to have sex when your blood counts are too low. You also need to know that there can still be some risks, even while your blood counts are at an acceptable level. The thin lining of the vagina and anus can be easily torn, which could cause bleeding or infection. This is the reason we don’t put thermometers or medications into the rectum. To protect your health, carefully consider the decisions you make about having sex.

Please use this information as a guide, not as personal medical advice. We encourage you to talk with your oncologist to find out if having sex is risky for your health or your partner’s health.