Login
Register

Home

About Us

Diagnoses

Treatments

Classes

Resources

Media

Testimonials

Blog

Account

Blog
Register
sexual problems and cancer treatment

Sexual Problems and Cancer Treatment

It's Cervical Health Awareness Month!

Sexual problems are a side effect of cancer treatment that oncologists don’t often talk about, but there are treatments to help, including the pelvic floor therapy that we do at Femina PT. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, stem cell transplantations, and other procedures can negatively affect quality of life, including sexual health and happiness. These side effects are not limited to cancers of the sexual organs either. Cancer treatment anywhere in the body (cervix, breast, throat, GI tract) can lead to changes in sexuality.

Up to 64% of women affected by cancer experience “altered sexuality”—their sex lives just feel different than they did before. There are physical side effects like fatigue, nausea, dry, painful, itchy, and burning vaginal tissues, and hormonal changes which make sex unappealing and painful. Altered self-image, depression, and anxiety can make it hard to connect with others and feel intimacy. These effects can last years after cancer treatment. If you are currently experiencing these effects, you are not alone and there are treatments that can help.

Pelvic floor therapy may help.

The therapists at Femina can help with some of the sexual problems that you may be feeling. Therapy for sexual problems and cancer treatment may include:

    • Dilator therapy to help with pain with penetration and to prevent or reverse scarring if your vaginal tissues are affected
    • Exercises for pelvic muscles to lower pain, improve bladder retention, improve bowel function, and increase the flow of blood to the area, which can improve your sexual health
    • Skincare and hygiene regimens to reduce vulvar tissue thinning, irritation, and dryness—including vaginal lubricants and moisturizers
    • Manual lymphatic drainage for tight, aching, or provoked pain in extremities, vulva, breast, armpits, and chest wall
    • Therapeutic yoga to improve lymphatic drainage and reduce chronic pain
    • Neuromuscular re-education and autogenic relaxation to reduce chronic muscle over-activity, reduce pain, and improve sleep

Bring it up with your doctor.

Unfortunately, not all doctors and nurses are equipped or comfortable with asking about sexual health. Most women can be sexually active during treatment, but you’ll want to confirm this with your doctor. You have every right to bring it up—be empowered to do so.

Sage Bolte, PhD, LCSW, OSW-C, CST, offers the following suggestions in her article, Your Sexual Health and Cancer: What to Know, What to Do” for the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

Write out questions and requests ahead of time.

One option to do this is using the “Fact, Feeling, Belief, and Question” formula.

Here’s an example:

I noticed that I have increased discomfort with intercourse (fact), and I’m upset about it (feeling). I believe it’s because of the treatments I was on (belief). Are there any tests that can be done or professionals I can talk to about how to improve this? (action)?”

You can also write out requests for referrals.

I am experiencing pain with penetration and vaginal dryness. I would like a referral to a pelvic floor therapist to address these issues.”

Write down your questions and requests and hand them to your health care provider or email/fax them before your next appointment. You can also bring someone with you to your appointment to help you address your concerns.

What you can do right now

  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
    Ask a health care professional to explore potential causes and treatments for changes in your sexual health and function.
  • Schedule an appointment with a pelvic floor therapist.
    Get a comprehensive evaluation with a pelvic floor therapist to establish a treatment plan and goals for your road to sexual health and recovery.
  • Explore other avenues for intimacy.
    Sex isn’t the only form of intimacy. Skin is the largest sex organ and the brain is the most important sex organ. Don’t be afraid to explore. If you need more support, consider finding a therapist who specializes in sexuality.
  • Plan for sex and intimacy.
    Engage in sex and intimacy during the times of day you have the least fatigue or feel at your best. Time sex and intimacy with your medication schedule so that you don’t feel nauseous or tired. Adjust the temperature of the room so you are comfortable and have any supplies (lubes, condoms) nearby.
  • Communicate your needs.
    Ask for what you want and need from your partner(s) and health care team. You possess the best knowledge of what you are feeling and what you need.
  • Take it easy.
    Rest during sex if you need to; it’s not a marathon.

Whatever your path is, you have many options to explore for sexual problems and cancer treatment. Your sexuality is important and you should feel empowered to bring it up with your team of providers.


Resources:

Coady D, Kennedy V. (2016). Sexual Health in Women Affected by Cancer: Focus on Sexual Pain. Obstet Gynecol. 128(4):775-91
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27607852

National Cancer Institute. (ND). Sexual Health Issues in Women.
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/sexuality-women

Bolte, S. (2017). Your Sexual Health and Cancer: What to Know, What to Do.
https://www.cancer.net/blog/2017-03/your-sexual-health-and-cancer-what-know-what-do

More Great Products We Love

What Our Patients Have to Say

Prev
Next

Testimonial by P.M.

I was hopeful but frankly skeptical when the doctor treating me for Interstitial Cystitis recommended that I go to Heather for physical therapy. Medication and diet helped control my IC symptoms, but I had never heard of physical therapy being used to treat IC. The education and treatment I received from Heather was a revelation. She explained that the pain I experienced with IC had helped create a cycle of muscle guarding which affected the entire pelvic area. I had no idea of the amount of tension being held there. No wonder my husband and I had not been able to have sexual intercourse for years!

Read more: Testimonial by P.M.

Testimonial by R.D., age 38

"I had a severe tear during childbirth that was not stitched together correctly and therefore healed poorly. Even after having a surgery a year later to remove the scar tissue, I was still having pain, and no one could explain why -- there was no overt 'reason' to explain the pain. I had tried other 'specialists' and even saw another physical therapist who had me do hip / leg stretches -- what a joke! I was about to give up and just 'live with it' until thankfully I kept searching online and found Heather.

Read more: Testimonial by R.D., age 38

Testimonial by Rosanna R., age 35

Heather has affected my life in the MOST POSITIVE way and I am forever grateful. My husband refers to her as the "sex doctor" so you can only imagine how happy he is with my therapy outcome.

After the birth of my son I suffered from "Vaginismus", however, at the time I just thought I was broken. My "broken vagina" affected me physically but it was an emotional struggle as well. Many women in my life also suffered with pain from sex after their babies were born so I knew I wasn't alone. They told me they "just got used to it" but I couldn't see myself living that way.

Sex wasn't just painful, it was literally impossible - IT DIDNT FIT!

Read more: Testimonial by Rosanna R.,...

Testimonial by A.W., age 32

I wanted to let you know that my pelvic floor held strong and gave me no trouble whatsoever in my trail race this morning (12 miles)! In a way, I felt like I ran better than ever because my core feels so rock solid from all the exercises you have me doing. That was especially valuable on the technical downhill - I just flew down the trail because I had confidence in my balance and form. Thank you for helping me get back to doing what I love.

-- A.W., age 32
(completed Post-partum Renewal Program using the InTone biofeedback/stim unit)

Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

Read more: Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

Read more: Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get access to our free downloads and a 15% discount on Heather's book "Sex Without Pain"!
captcha 
I agree with the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy policy