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Sexual Wellness

Regaining Intimacy: Tips for Managing Sexual Wellness

Physical Side Effects of Cancer Treatment on Sexual Functioning

Treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy can all impact sexual health. Here’s a brief overview of some common sexual side effects experienced by women and men post-treatment: 

  • Women: Decreased sexual drive, difficulty achieving an orgasm, vaginal dryness, and pain during intercourse 

  • Men: Decreased sexual drive, erectile dysfunction, difficulty achieving an orgasm, and having an orgasm without the excretion of semen 

To manage these side effects, consider the following: 

For Women

  • Use moisturizers and lubricants for vaginal dryness and to alleviate pain during penetrative sexual intercourse 

  • Use vaginal dilators to assist with vaginal atrophy 

  • Guidance from a pelvic floor therapist and sexual therapist to help with restoring vaginal health and desire 

  • Experiment with different methods of self-pleasure

For Men:

  • Consult with men’s health specialists and discuss potential medication options to help manage erectile dysfunction 

  • Guidance from a sex therapist to help with concerns and abilities 

  • Experiment with different methods of self-pleasure 

*In this article, we use “women” and “men” while recognizing the imperfection of this language for individuals who are transgender, non-binary, or for those whose gender does not match their anatomy.

Getting Support

Reconnecting with your body and adapting to changes in sexual function requires patience and effort. Strategies include:  

  • Engaging with an oncology nurse to discuss sexual side effects and intervention strategies 

  • Talking with a mental health therapist to cope with changes in your body image and sexual experience 

  • Cultivating curiosity about your body and exploring non-traditional forms of sexual pleasure, such as sex aids, varied physical positions, and massage 

Addressing the often-overlooked sexual side effects of cancer treatment is crucial for maintaining quality of life and daily activities. As you strive to reconnect with your body, discussing any sexual side effects with your Iris Nurse can provide tailored advice and interventions. Additionally, consulting an Iris Mental Health Therapist can offer support in coping with changes to your body and enhancing your sexual experience.

This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.