Sex and cancer uncovered – your needs are worth talking about!

4 minute read time.
Sex and cancer uncovered – your needs are worth talking about!

Mentioning the Unmentionable

If you ask the average person about what part sex and intimacy plays in their life, it wouldn’t be unusual to see them curl up like a pretzel with embarrassment. Despite being the most natural and healthy thing in the world, it’s a topic often relegated to the ‘unmentionable’ pile.

Although sex and intimacy are a fundamental part of the human experience, the topic seems to inspire a unique level of shame when trying to talk about it openly. Unlike talking about our favourite foods or our preferred sleep routine, talking about sex can lead to red faces, giggles, and a desperate effort to escape the discussion completely.

For someone affected by a cancer diagnosis, the topic becomes vastly more complex. It isn’t just the social taboo of sex usually being a highly private subject, it’s the fact that it’s usually the farthest thing from your mind when impacted by a cancer diagnosis. When the subject finally does come up, it can be tied to a complex web of feelings, worries, and insecurities.

What’s Sex Got to Do with It?

I think we can all agree that when a person first receives a cancer diagnosis, sex is not going to be the first thing that springs to mind. Questions about treatment, side-effects, and prognosis are always going to be far more pressing issues.

As time goes on and things become clearer, elements of ‘normal’ life do tend to creep back in. It might be tempting to put off thinking about it, but reengaging with your sex and intimacy needs can be a more important activity than you might think.

If you have a partner, not talking about your needs can create conflicts and disappointments. Misaligned expectations and incorrect assumptions about what one another might be feeling are common pitfalls. For someone without a partner, understanding how you feel and what your future aspirations might be are also equally important. 

Life Changing, Not Life Ruining

Cancer and cancer treatment can have all sorts of impacts on your sex life. What feels good, and what doesn’t feel good now? Energy levels and changes to your sex drive (libido). Your self-image and perceived desirability. Wondering if your partner’s feelings have changed since being involved in your care.

Although undeniably difficult, starting to rebuild that part of your life can play a key part in furthering your emotional wellbeing. Examining your wants and needs can also play an important role in making treatment decisions. It’s important not to feel rushed into engaging with the topic before you’re ready, but it’s an important conversation to think about having.

There are so many ways you can find new and equally fulfilling ways to express your intimate connection with a partner. Whatever the timescale, you can build to a new normal that works for you by being honest about what you want and need. Cancer does not have to mean an end to your sex life – it can be the start of something creative and new.

Our New Sex and Cancer Page

If you feel the time is right, Macmillan has some great resources to help you make sense of what your new intimacy needs might look like. To help promote healthy, honest, and hopeful conversations about sex and cancer, Macmillan have launched a new information hub dealing with this important topic. You can visit it at the link below: 

We need to talk about sex (and cancer)

 Getting the Conversation Started

Discussions about sex and cancer crop up naturally all over the Online Community, but sometimes you might be shy about bringing the topic up. We want to make sure there’s always a place where conversations about intimacy are expected and encouraged, and so we’re also launching a dedicated sex and intimacy discussion thread.

No embarrassment, no question too small or seemingly silly. Just open and honest conversation where you can share thoughts, questions, tips, and reassurance. What worried or worries you about returning to being intimate? Maybe you’re further along the journey, and you have some advice to share? Have your say here:

Sex and cancer - Let's talk

Whatever you’d like to say, just remember you’re posting on a safe and friendly Community.

Further Reading

Macmillan has some excellent information online regarding all things sex and cancer related. You might find the following pages helpful: 

We also have some thought-provoking blogs by the Online Community Team that you might find interesting: