You may think that the words cancer, sex and sexuality don’t go together. After your initial diagnosis, you were probably more focused on cures, survival and longevity. Sex and sexuality might not have even crossed your mind. But they are still very important parts of your life, even while dealing with a cancer diagnosis as well as treatment.
Sexuality and Cancer
While sex is a part of any couples life, so is sexuality in your life. Sexuality is defined by how people experience and express themselves as sexual beings. This may be the most difficult part for you right now. Your body may be going through changes due to cancer treatment and you may just not feel like your most sexual being. However, while these changes are occurring, YOU are still YOU. The person you always were is still there and still beautiful, if only slightly altered for the time being. The person you are inside has not changed, even if the outside is a little different. Any time your mind wants to create a negative, counter it with a positive. Stay as active as you can. Try relaxation tapes, CDs or DVDs. Read. Do whatever you need to do to make you feel like the beautiful woman you still are.
The Difference Between Sex and Sexuality
Sex is thought of as a physical activity or an act, sexual intercourse. But sexuality is so much more than that. Sexuality is more about the way you feel. It is about touching, feeling, closeness and caring with your partner. Sexuality walks hand in hand with your zest for life. It encompasses your self image and even your relationship with others.
Sex and Cancer
Try to keep an open mind about sex during treatment. Sometimes penetration is not possible, but couples can give and receive pleasure other ways such as caressing and soft touch. Take the time to find out what will work best for you and communicate this to your partner. Guide your partner so you are able to receive the most pleasure while avoiding areas that may be tender or sore.
For women with breast cancer, low-dose vaginal estrogen or intravaginal DHEA should be considered when lubricants/vaginal moisturizers are not helpful. This should be a joint discussion with the patient, her oncologist, and other related clinicians.
Communication is Key
Don’t be afraid to talk to your oncologist or health care professional about questions you may have. They can guide you and give you the answers you want and need. You have the right to know how your treatment will affect you mentally, physically and sexually. When you know what to expect, you can better plan on how you can handle situations before they arise.
It is also important to communicate with your partner because they are in this with you. Tell them what you are feeling, what you need, what you want. Allow them to be a part of this journey with you.