Intimacy & Sexuality
Sexuality and Cancer
Speak with a M.D. Anderson Health Information Specialist at 1.877.632.6789
“Cancer treatment can cause a variety of sexual changes. Even though the causes may be different – surgery, chemotherapy, hormone treatment or radiation – the resulting changes are often similar. Some patients experience changes in all areas (desire, arousal, orgasm, resolution), but others experience none. The most common sexual change for cancer patients is an overall loss of desire…. For women, vaginal dryness and pain with sexual activity are frequent. Most men and women are still able to have an orgasm even if cancer treatment interferes with erections or vaginal lubrication, or involves removing some parts of the pelvic organs. It is common for patients to need more time or stimulation to reach orgasm. While medications are available to treat many of these symptoms, some of these same drugs can decrease sexual desire or make it harder to reach orgasm. It is usually safe to have sex during cancer treatment unless your doctor tells you not to. Talk with your doctor before participating in sexual activities.
Coping with Sexual Changes: When sexual changes do occur, they typically do not improve right away. Finding the most helpful remedy may take time and patience because sexual changes can be caused by both psychological and physical factors. Treatment-related sexual changes may be long-term or permanent. Talk with your health care team before treatment to learn about what to sexual changes to expect from your cancer or cancer treatment. By knowing what may happen, you may be better prepared and more knowledgeable about possible changes. If problems occur, discuss them with your team and find out how to get help. If you are having sex during chemotherapy, you may wish to use barrier protection, such as condoms or dental dams (for oral sex), since chemotherapy chemicals can be found in semen or vaginal fluid. Patients in their childbearing years should be aware that a pregnancy during or just after chemotherapy can be complicated by birth defects. Radiation therapy from an external machine does not make you radioactive or endanger your partner in any way. If you are undergoing brachytherapy, which implants radioactive seeds in your body, you may have to stop sexual activity briefly until the strongest radiation has left the body. Sex can be a problem if you have bleeding in the genital area following a recent surgery or if your immune system is very weakened.”
You can speak with a Health Speak with a M.D. Anderson Health Information Specialist at 1.877.632.6789.
Boulder Sex Therapy
Tara Galeano, MA, LPC, Certified Sex Therapist
2525 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, Colorado 80304
“The benefits of counseling at Boulder Sex Therapy include more intimacy, clearer communication, greater self-awareness, and better relationship. It takes couple’s counseling to a more intimate level by discussing the oft overlooked, but very important, issue of sex in a relationship. You may also experience clearer and more effective emotional expression and a better understanding of the intra-psychic causes of sexual dysfunction including both the relational and medical aspects. In your work with me, you will benefit by: expanding your awareness of your body’s innate wisdom; reclaiming your sexuality; enhancing your understanding of how past sexual experiences impacted your sexual identity.” Tara Galeano is “…a licensed professional counselor, certified in marriage and family therapy, board certified in sexology, an AASECT certified sex therapist, and a Level I TRE Practitioner. I specialize in working with adult individuals, couples, and groups focusing on sex therapy and relational counseling.”
Sex and Cancer (Intimacy, Romance, and Love after Diagnosis and Treatment)
Saketh R. Guntupalli, MD, and Maryann Karinch
Sex and Cancer is a superb resource for both patients and clinicians alike. Dr. Guntupalli masterfully tackles the complex implications for love and intimacy that are too often overlooked and underdiscussed when it comes to cancer. Regaining intimacy accelerates the path to regaining health and this book is an insightful, powerful guide to doing exactly that. (Bill Frist, MD, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader)
Sex and cancer, two topics each of which are difficult to discuss by alone. Combine them and the anxiety they cause may be insurmountable. Finally, there is a resource that is compassionate and practical for both the person coping with cancer and their loved one. This is a book that you will immediately find useful and refer back to on your cancer journey. Sex and Cancer has my highest recommendation. (Stan Goldberg, PhD, author of Loving, Supporting, and Caring for the Cancer Patient)
A diagnosis of cancer changes everything. Not only does cancer affect the body, but the disease and the treatments for it can take a toll on our most intimate relationships. Kudos to Saketh Guntapalli for shining a light on this important topic–for explaining the physiological underpinnings of these effects and for providing solutions that are often surprisingly simple to implement. (Claudia Cornwall, PhD, author of Battling Melanoma: One Couple’s Struggle from Diagnosis to Cure and Catching Cancer: The Quest for its Viral and Bacterial Causes)
This book contains critical information, too often omitted from doctor-patient discussions. It will be exceedingly helpful to any woman with gynecological cancer. (Carol L. Goldstein, RN, PhD, and ovarian cancer survivor)