Cancer treatments can cause physical symptoms and side effects that can alter your comfort, interest, desire and ability to be intimate or engage in sexual activity.
Side effects from treatment may include nausea, changes in bowel function, sleep, fatigue, and nerve damage. These things can affect your sexual desire, genital arousal, vaginal lubrication and erection, or your ability or interest to reach orgasm. Many of these side effects are temporary. In some cases, however, they may become permanent.
Some treatments can affect hormones and cause changes to sexual function, such as erectile function and vaginal dryness, due to the effect of chemotherapy and hormone therapy on the reproductive organs. Hormonal changes can affect your fertility as well.
Cancer treatments may also result in changes in your body’s appearance such as loss of hair, skin changes, alterations in your weight or scars from surgery. Sometimes these changes can affect what you think and how you feel about your body. Your body image is very important and can affect your desire for intimacy.
Emotional distress, anxiety and depression, and the medications used to treat these conditions, can also affect sexuality and the desire for intimacy. Emotions not only impact you psychologically, but can also affect your sexual response. Emotions can also affect your relationship with your partner. For example if you are worried about your future, finances or participating in family life, you may experience a decrease in the desire for intimacy.