How to Have Sex When you Have Cancer


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Cancer is a disease that affects millions of Americans, with more diagnosed cases each year. Approximately 54% of cases in the top ten cancers are under the age of 70, and yet, there is very little discussion in doctors offices about how cancer will affect your sex life. There’s little talk about how medications will change your body and your libido-beyond the discussion of fertility after treatment.

A cancer diagnosis can often make you feel less human. With all the tests, doctors,medications, the sheer exhaustion of the disease, and also the mental and emotional energy you expend when you are sick, it can be very important to recognize your limits and your needs. Often, when you receive your diagnosis, the assumption is that you are too sick, too weak, or too preoccupied to think about your sex life. Studies have shown that sex can help you manage stress and pain, which can help with the stress surrounding a diagnosis, as well as the pain from cancer and cancer treatment. In addition, sex can help you to feel more “normal”, even if you have to adjust your sexual behaviors or positions to accommodate your treatment methods, or physical comfort.

Regardless of how you have to accommodate your illness, it’s important to be able to discuss those expectations. Whether it’s with your partner or with your doctor, it is important to be direct in what you want and need. Questions like “How will this medication affect my libido?” and “I am noticing my sex drive is decreased, why is that?” are totally acceptable. One of the most frustrating things during illness is having a partner treat you as though you are fragile or incapable of knowing your own limits. Discussing these behaviors with your partner can help you verbalize your want for normalcy (or not!), as well as let your partner know that you are capable of knowing your boundaries.

While it is understandable that your partner is concerned about your well-being, asking them to treat you sexually as they did before your diagnosis is normal and often wanted. Many times, our partners want to care for us by taking care of us, and they can frequently underestimate our physical limits in regards to what we need and want. It is important to be able to discuss how that would make you feel and let your partner know when you need a change. If you need or desire more sex, or a specific type of sex, speak up! Let your partner know that just because you have cancer, does not mean that it is going to run your life and you would like to continue your habits to maintain a sense of normalcy.

However, make sure that you are also discussing your expectations. If you use the spoon theory, make sure you discuss with your partner the fact that you are running low on spoons, or that you have a lot of spoons that day and you would like to use them on sex. If you’re not feeling up to it, or midway through you realize that your body is not up to the challenge, it is completely okay to let your partner know that. Do not feel as though you have to apologize if your body is not able to meet the challenge of sex.

If you find that you have consistent challenges with sex, and your ability to have sex, do not be afraid to try something new. If you have issues maintaining an erection, a cock ring or dual ring harness can be a lifesaver. If you need more lubrication during sex, try using a water based or even silicone based lubricant! Padded wedges can help lift your body into positions that are more comfortable. In addition, picking up a sex position book can help you find different positions that are more comfortable for you. Find what positions suit you best and enjoy yourself.

If you are experiencing an unexpected change in sex drive, be sure to talk to your doctor. Discover what medications could be affecting you, and how to work with them. Do your own research, or seek out another physician if your current doctor is not giving you the information you need.

Do not assume that your sex life should be put on the back burner because of your cancer diagnosis.

Until Next Time!
-The Frisky Fairy