Sex & Relationships During Cancer - Lets Fuck Cancer


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A patient’s guide to

Sex & Relationships During Cancer

When you are diagnosed with cancer, your sex life may change in unexpected ways. We’re here to make sure sex doesn’t become the elephant in the bedroom. You can get between the sheets, but not if nobody’s talking about it.

Intimacy During Cancer

As a rule of thumb, if you are well enough to be in public then you’re well enough to have sex.

Cancer can affect your sex life in many ways, such as your physical ability to engage in sexual activity, your interest in sex, increased emotions such as fear, anxiety, or anger, and new feelings about your body. Here are a few tips to navigate it all:

Flex your muscles

Moving your body releases endorphins, which in turn can help you think more positively.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

How else is your partner going to know what you’re thinking? Having open and honest conversations about your new reality can help you work through your feelings. Your partner will only know how to support you if you share with them.

Find support

Talking to people who understand what you’re going through can help you feel more supported. Try connecting with a support group or mental health professional in your area.

Think outside the box

It’s not all about sex. Finding alternative ways to experience pleasure and intimacy can help you adjust to your new sex life with cancer. Try kissing and cuddling, watching porn, getting a vibrator or other toys, setting the mood with candles, or playing out a sexual fantasy. And if you’re tired a lot, try engaging in sexual activity when you have the most energy, like right after a nap.

Be patient

Give yourself space, this is a new part of life. It might take a few tries to find a position that is comfortable or to work up enough energy for sex.

Talk to your doctor

You may be sick of seeing your doctor after all of your appointments, but if you have questions about your sex life with cancer, ask them! Your doctor knows your health and medical risks best, so they are your best resource.

Feel okay not having sex

Even if your body feels physically strong enough for sex, you may not be interested in sex right now. That’s totally okay and normal.

Treatment & Your Sex Life

You’re not only dealing with your cancer diagnosis, but also the side effects of your treatment, including fatigue, nausea, decreased interest in sex, and/or weight loss/gain. All of these can impact your sex life.


When you are being treated with chemotherapy, it’s important to keep the following things in mind:

  • Use a barrier method of contraception (female or male condom). We don’t know for sure if chemotherapy drugs can be passed during sexual activity, so it’s always good to take precautions.
  • Pregnancy should be avoided.
  • Talk to your doctor if you notice genital warts or herpes symptoms.


If you’ve recently had surgery as part of your cancer treatment, ask your doctor when you can start having sex again. Sometimes, sex can strain the incision from surgery, which increases your chance of infection, so practice caution and follow your doctor’s guidance.


Radiation therapy that targets your pelvic area can cause bladder or bowel problems that can make sex challenging. Sex-specific side effects of radiation:

Identified female at birth: Radiation around your pelvis can…

  • Damage your ovaries and impact the amount of hormones you produce, which can impact your interest in sex.
  • Cause your periods to become irregular or stop altogether.
  • Lead to early menopause, which can make sex painful, particularly penetration.

Identified male at birth: Radiation around your pelvis can….

  • Damage the nerves and blood vessels in the penis.
  • Cause some level of erectile dysfunction.
  • Create pain during ejaculation.
  • Lead to dry orgasms (where you reach orgasm, but don’t release any semen).
  • Impact your testicles, which can cause you to lose interest in sex.

Managing a Stoma

Tips if you have a colostomy or urostomy:

  • As you prepare for sexual activity, change your bag and check the seal to prevent leaks.
  • Try having sex in the shower or bath.
  • Get a cover for your bag – out of sight, out of mind!
  • Wear a smaller bag during sex, or use a cap or plug if you can.
  • Wear what makes you feel good – if you feel sexy, you are sexy.
  • Tape the pouch to your body to stop it from flapping during sex.
  • Try positions that keep your partner’s weight off your stoma.
  • Wear perfume or cologne to help with odors.
  • Talk to people who get it.

Tips if you have a tracheostomy:

  • Before you start, discuss what you and your partner like sexually.
  • Come up with creative ways to communicate during sex.
  • Show your partner what you need by guiding their hands or using body language.
  • Wear a cover, scarf, or necklace if it makes you feel more confident.
  • Wear perfume or cologne, and avoid garlic or spicy foods to help with odors.
  • Join an ostomy support group.

Women & People with Vaginas

Research has found that women with cancer struggle with body image and physical changes that impact their sex lives. Here are some common physical and mental changes that you may experience, as well as tips to address them in relation to your sex life.

Mental Changes

  • Struggling with your body image
  • Decreased or loss of sexual desire
  • Feelings of sadness, disappointment, or loss due to changing sex life
  • Feeling blindsided by changes to your life

Physical Changes

  • Vaginal penetration has become painful
  • Difficulty achieving orgasm
  • Decreased sexual interest or desire
  • Increased vaginal dryness or irritation
  • Numbness in previously sensitive areas
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Weight gain


  • Find a support group or mental health professional
  • Learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby
  • Focus on what makes you feel good. Look in the mirror and tell yourself all the things you find attractive about yourself
  • If you’re feeling self-conscious during sex, try wearing lingerie or other clothing to shift focus away from the areas that you feel less confident about, or dim the lights during sex
  • There’s more to it than just penetration. Try focusing on your clitoris or other areas on your body that bring pleasure.
  • Talk to your doctor about treatments that may benefit your sex life
  • Use a lubricant, vaginal moisturizer, vaginal estrogen, or dilator to increase comfort during sexual activity
  • Learn relaxation techniques

Men & People with Penises

Men with cancer can experience both physical and mental changes to their sex lives. Research has found that the majority of mental challenges that men with cancer face are due to an inability to engage in sex the way they were able to prior to their diagnosis. Men with cancer often struggle to cope with their changed sexual abilities.

Common Changes

  • Inability to get or maintain an erection
  • Premature ejaculation or urination during ejaculation
  • Retrograde ejaculation where your semen mixes with urine instead of exiting through the penis
  • Dry orgasm where there is little to no semen released during an orgasm, but your orgasm may still be pleasurable
  • Pain during sex
  • Decrease or loss of sexual desire
  • Embarrassment about changing sex life


  • Try experimenting with different positions
  • Try finding a support group or mental health professional you can talk to
  • Talk to your doctor about treatments that may benefit your sex life
  • Communicate openly and honestly with your partner before and after sex.
  • Work together to find what satisfies you both.
  • If you’re experiencing premature ejaculation, try incorporating more foreplay, having sex on a towel, having sex in the shower or bath, or using a condom
  • Try out new sex toys
  • Try non-penetrative methods of sexual activity and intimacy — cuddling, kissing, oral and manual sex, masturbation
  • Focus on what makes you feel good. Look in the mirror and tell yourself all the things you find attractive about yourself
  • If you’re feeling self-conscious during sex, try wearing clothing to shift focus away from the areas that you feel less confident about, or dim the lights during sex

Gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men

Depending on the type of cancer you have and your treatment regimen, you may now have trouble achieving a strong enough erection to be a top. If you are comfortable, consider being a bottom. However, some men who have been treated for prostate or other genital cancers report changes to anal sensitivity and pain during anal sex.

It can be helpful to find a support group or therapist who specializes in treating people with cancer who are gay, bi, or other men who have sex with men. Finding other men who can relate to your experience will help you navigate this period of your life and find support through community.

What If I’m Single

and (Maybe) Ready to Mingle?

Finding a new partner or telling someone you’ve been casually dating about your cancer diagnosis and treatment can feel particularly daunting. Here are a few tips to navigate the conversations and experiences to come.

We all know that dating is hard, even when you aren’t dealing with cancer. But, when you’re ready to start dating, consider these tips.

Talk to a trusted friend or family member

If you’re comfortable, show them any scars or changes to your body. This can help you feel more confident when you’re ready to show your body to a new partner.

Don’t forget about fertility

Your fertility (including the ability to have children) may have changed due to your cancer treatment. Figuring out how to tell a new partner about this aspect of your cancer might be hard, but it’s an important conversation to have.

Think about how you’ve changed

It’s possible that you could have an even stronger desire for sex and/or intimacy in your life than before cancer. A cancer diagnosis can bring up very strong emotions, which can be difficult to cope with if you’re single. Try sharing your feelings with close friends and family. The right person will present themselves in time and be able to give you the support you need.

Communicate openly and honestly with your partner

You might want to prepare what you’re going to say to your partner beforehand – write it down, read it through a few times, or practice saying it in the mirror. It can also be helpful to have some answers prepared for questions they might ask.

Talk about your changing body

You might want to share with your partner the changes that your body has gone through before initiating sexual activity so you can gauge how you both feel before becoming intimate.

It’s more than just sex

If you are uninterested or unable to engage in sexual activity, you can still have romantic feelings, and you and a new partner can focus on showing each other affection by talking, cuddling, kissing, and spending time together. Sex is not the only important piece of a romantic relationship.

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