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Cancer & Intimacy

Margaret Brammer | Shaw Regional Cancer Center

For many women and men the impact of cancer treatment can create a shift in intimate relationships. As the number of cancer survivors continues to grow so does the number of couples who are figuring out how to reconnect after treatment. 

Survivors may experience physical changes such as hair loss weight changes surgical alteration and scarring. This can take a toll on a person's self-image which can affect their comfort level with intimacy. Additionally medications and procedures used during treatment or the overall stress of a cancer diagnosis can cause a person to lose interest in sex. This is extremely common. 

Below are some suggestions for couples looking to reconnect after cancer.

Communication: Even if you've been with your partner a long time it can be a challenge to stay connected. Be open and honest. Talk about your anxieties what you hope for what may need to change. Chances are your partner has strong thoughts about this too and just starting the conversation can be a big relief.

Sensual touch: Spend time touching each other without the precedent that it will lead to sex. Hold hands kiss hug and cuddle. A gentle massage or a squeeze of the shoulder as you pass by in the kitchen can spark that connection.

Be open-minded: Give yourself permission to be open to change. Together you and your partner may find new ways to enjoy intimacy. 

Consult your care team: They can provide you with safe suggestions for assistance in engaging in intimacy.

Counseling: Individual counseling can be helpful in addressing body image and esteem issues. Couples counseling can provide a safe space to explore intimacy issues. 

Locate a pelvic floor specialist: Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common side effect of cancer treatment. A pelvic floor specialist can assist with bladder control sexual dysfunction and pelvic instability for both men and women.

Helpful Resources

Woman Cancer Sex by Anne Katz
Man Cancer Sex by Anne Katz
And in Health: A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together by Dan Shapiro

*These books can be checked out from the Resource Library at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center

Locating a Certified Sex Therapist
The American Association of Sex Educators Counselors and Therapists
The Society for Sex Therapy and Research
Locating a Pelvic Floor Therapist
Howard Head Sports Medicine: (970) 476-1225 | | click on patient section and find a therapist

For additional referrals or information contact Margaret Brammer at or (970) 569-7606.