There are a wide range of thoughts and emotions that accompany a cancer
diagnosis that are completely normal. However, these thoughts and
feelings may not feel normal because you may not have felt them before.
Symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and relationship
challenges very typically occur along with all the effects of cancer or
its treatment. However, discussions about sex are often neglected by
health professionals and patients.
Many people are not comfortable discussing sex, especially cancer
patients who are dealing with life-changing issues and have more stressful
and life-threatening concerns on their minds.
But should the topic of sex be equally important to those with cancer?
I have often found in my work as a mental health counselor, that couples
are very interested in learning about how to have sex comfortably and
safely during and after cancer treatment.
A cancer patient and their partner often have questions about sexual
intimacy due to a loss in the cancer sufferer’s libido (sex drive) or
negative sexual functions that can result from the cancer treatment. As
a result, they look for advice from their doctor and/or other health
care professionals to gain a better understanding of the affects of
treatment and how it affects their sex drive so they can continue to
enjoy having sex as they did before diagnosis with cancer.
The difficulty with talking about sex, falls not only upon the patient,
but upon doctors too. Many doctors will often avoid the subject or wait
for the patient to raise it. Yet, a cancer patients and their
caregivers often wants information to understand how treatment will
affect their sexual desire and function.
One study suggests, that: “Health professionals may also believe their
discussions [about sex] may be construed as disrespectful and
inappropriate by the patient, with research suggesting that gender, age,
culture, socioeconomic factors, and religion all contribute to health
professionals’ avoidance of the topic…” (Asia-Pacific Journal of
Clinical Oncology, 2009).
In my experience as a counselor, whom has provided therapy for cancer
patients, it’s easy to understand how concerns about sex may go
unattended to because both patients and physicians are unwilling to
engage in dialogue about the topic.
Raising this issue with your doctor is important because many newly
diagnosed patients and their partners may not be aware of the safety
issues involving sex, cancer, and treatment.
Whether or not your doctor raises the issue, you should be brave and
raise the issues and questions you have about cancer treatment and sex.
As a guide, here are some helpful questions in which you can ask your
doctor about sex and mesothelioma:
Do I need to take precautions during intercourse while I am on
How will treatment affect my energy levels and libido?
How soon after surgery or a procedure can I have sex?
Is it safe for me to physically exert myself during sex while I am on
Have other patients receiving the same treatment reported side effects
that impact sex?
Is oral sex safe during treatment?
How will treatment affect my hormone levels?
Will I be able to have children after I finish treatment?
How will treatment affect my fertility?
When you or a loved one are battling cancer, so many things do not feel
normal. Sometimes, sex can return some sense of normalcy. It can also
improve a couple’s quality of life during this difficult time. It may
take some courage to raise concerns and questions about sex to your
doctor, which may not be easy, but most patients find the payoff in
having discussions about sex while battling cancer is well worth the