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Blog Entry

Cancer and your sex life

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Couple at cafe

Have you seen the Macmillan research that’s been in the news this week about cancer and sex

A survey of women who’ve had breast cancer showed that a third of all women, and half of those under 55, have sex less often as a result of their cancer. 

And this isn’t a problem restricted only to those with breast cancer, or to women. Sexual difficulties are one of the most common long-term consequences of cancer, affecting around 35,000 people in the UK. 

Gietta Gudge, 48, a breast cancer patient from Northamptonshire, says: “Breast cancer left my sex life in tatters. I used to have sex with my husband every day, but after cancer, I was sore from the operation and my treatment caused menopausal symptoms that made sex painful.

“Radiotherapy burned my skin which added to the problem and chemotherapy made me feel so sick and tired that sex was the last thing on my mind.” 

Cancer can have a huge impact, both physically and emotionally, so it’s not surprising that this can affect people’s sex lives. However, many people find sex a difficult topic to talk about, so they might not be getting the help and support that they need. 

Jennifer’s top tips 

Jennifer Gorrie, a Macmillan cancer information nurse has these tips: 

-       Try wearing a soft camisole top, bra, or other clothing to bed to boost your confidence if you are self-conscious about a mastectomy or scarring

-       You can be intimate with your partner without having sex. Hold hands, kiss, hug and talk to each other

-       If fatigue is an issue, it might help to have sex in the morning when you are feeling more energetic after a night’s sleep

-       If arousal is difficult, get your partner to focus on other sensitive areas like your neck, your bum and inner thighs

-       Experiment with which positions are most comfortable for you. For example, you may find it easier to have sex side by side, or change who is on top

-       Talk to your partner about how the cancer has made you feel and how it has affected your sex life

-       Talk to your GP or call the free Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00. 

Whether you are male or female, have a partner or are single, and whatever your sexual orientation, cancer doesn’t have to mean the end of your sex life. Read more tips and information about cancer and sexuality or order our free booklet.

  • Yes - so many cancers are in the reproductive systems and even those that aren't the treatment can make people so fatigued that 'normal sex' is out of the question. It's good that Macmillan are raissing awareness here - thank you. al
  • Once again Macmillan takes the lead in bringing sensitive subjects out into the open. Well done! This is a very important topic which probably affects most patients. Thank you, Twirly