Can intimacy survive cancer?

Tips for staying connected during a difficult time

Jim Williams

HealthKey contributor

October 1, 2009


Intimacy vs. cancer: It's the 2,000-pound elephant in the bedroom. Does intimacy have to end when a partner is diagnosed with cancer? There is no question that feelings of sexual desire and intimacy may change when a loved one is undergoing cancer treatmentÂ…and understandably so. But intimacy can survive cancer; in fact, it can improve.

Sexuality Issues

In general, cancer treatments can cause loss of libido, nausea and fatigue, which leave little energy or desire for sexual relations, according experts at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Specifically:

For women: common side effects of chemotherapy and hormone therapy include vaginal dryness, an increased risk of developing yeast infections.

For men: chemotherapy and some cancer surgeries can cause impotence or erectile dysfunction. Also, chemo drugs may cause sterility in men.

The Good News

If you and your partner enjoyed a healthy, comfortable sex life prior to your illness, chances are excellent that you will be able to keep a high level of intimacy despite the changes brought about by cancer. Many people may even find that increased closeness and communication resulting from the experience of illness actually enhances their sexuality.

The American Cancer Society offers some tips to help you keep intimacy in your life during cancer treatments: