Just as physical symptoms, such as loss of weight, pain and fatigue, can affect your sexual responses, so too can emotions, such as embarrassment over changes in your body and worry about whether your partner finds you attractive.

If you are finding sex uncomfortable, for any reason, some techniques, therapies, medications or counselling may help. It is also important to remind yourself that intimacy is not just about intercourse. Touching, cuddling, kissing, caressing and spending time together are also important in expressing love and affection.

What may help

Talk to your Doctor

Some people feel that their doctor is reluctant to discuss sexuality. Don’t let that stop you. Your sexuality is likely to be crucial to how you feel about yourself and your life, so seek all the advice you need. Your doctor may be able to help with physical matters and, if they do not have the answers to emotional concerns, they will refer you to someone who may, such as a social worker, psychologist or counsellor.

Talk to your partner

Talking about your feelings, concerns and anxieties helps your partner both understand and, hopefully, help. Even if sex itself is off the agenda, warmth, closeness and intimacy are just as important.


Q: Do I still need to use contraceptives and other precautions if I have had, or am having, extensive cancer treatments?

A: Infertility may be temporary or permanent after treatments such as radiotherapy, especially in the pelvic area, or chemotherapy. Although, fertility problems can be a side-effect of cancer treatment, this is not always the case. You need to consider the risks of becoming pregnant or your partner becoming pregnant. Remember that it can be dangerous for a baby to be conceived during and immediately after chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs can stay in your system for about 48 hours. So it may be wise to avoid intercourse during this time or use a barrier contraceptive, such as a condom.
(Source: Cancer Council Victoria, Sexuality and Cancer, October 2007)

For more information

  • Call the Cancer Council 13 11 20 to talk to trained counsellors.
  • The Cancer Council has booklets on Sexuality for Men With Cancer, Sexuality for People Who Have Stoma (Ostomy) and Sexuality for Women With Cancer or call 13 11 20 to have them sent to you.

Last updated 30 August 2015