home
RSS
Re-establishing intimacy after cancer
October 6th, 2011
07:26 AM ET

Re-establishing intimacy after cancer

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

As a nation, we first observed Breast Cancer Awareness Month - dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of early breast cancer detection - 25 years ago.

As the years have passed, the campaign’s visibility has grown, making it one of the most successful of its kind. Proceeds from pink apparel make October one of the rosiest months of the year. Charity walks abound. Education regarding self exams and breast cancer symptoms has become part of the public consciousness.

But as caught up as we are in the dual causes of prevention and additional medical research (both crucial), not as much attention has been paid to the sexual aftermath of a cancer diagnosis.

Recently, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that sexual performance can be adversely affected in the cases of men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer. Although the effects vary greatly depending upon a number of variables - age, the severity of the cancer and the quality of the man’s sex life before treatment - the majority of participants in the study reported continued issues with erectile dysfunction and other intimacy-related issues after treatment.

And although prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, it’s not the only type that can lead to sexual dysfunction. According to an earlier study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a large percentage of both men and women (including 95% of women with breast cancer) have experienced some level of sexual dysfunction after being treated for cancer.

Says Anne, a cancer survivor: “During treatment, sex stopped. Now that I think about it, most forms of intimacy between me and my husband stopped as well. It makes sense to me now; out of fear, we both withdrew from one another. But if I could do it over, I would have paid more attention to sex. I would have tried harder to remain intimate. I thought we could set that aside and come back to it when the diseased storm had passed. I thought we could pick right back up in bed when I was healthier. This wasn’t true, though, and we have found it especially difficult to re-establish our sexual relationship.”

Why does this matter so much, especially considering that so much else is at stake? In “Sexy Ever After,” a new book dealing with intimacy post-cancer that’s available for free as a digital download during the month of October, the authors - Patty Brisben and Keri Peterson, M.D. - write, “Your sexuality is a vital part of your health and sense of well-being. To put it under the carpet because you’ve been sick is shutting off an area of your life that is a source of vitality.”

One of the biggest roadblocks to a healthy sex life after cancer is lack of desire. Libido is a complex thing, and libido can be affected by so many different factors: Hormonal therapy and chemotherapy can cause low libido.

But the issue could very well be psychological, too. Your sense of sexual identity may have been compromised, or your body image damaged, due to treatment symptoms like hair loss, infertility or disfigurement. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use those changes as an opportunity to find new ways to enjoy sex even more.

You can’t allow your intimate life to fall victim to the health issues you’re struggling with. It’s not fair to you or your partner. Being proactive about fighting your low libido is important, and if you work hard enough at it, sex will become fun again.

Says Krissi B., a cancer survivor, regarding sex after cancer treatments: “You don’t want to have it. You don’t feel sexy. You don’t feel pretty. You don’t have the energy. I also had an open incision on my chest for seven months because my mastectomy wound did not heal. The very first time I looked at my mastectomy wound, I was in the shower. I said to myself, 'It is so ugly.' My husband came into the shower fully dressed and kissed that area. 'Cancer’s ugly, honey,' he said. 'You can never be.' "

"When you get a mastectomy, you don’t have the same body you had, because you’re missing a breast. You don’t have that muscle tone, because of the chemotherapy. You don’t have your hair. You just don’t feel sexy. But then you realize that true love is about your inner beauty and not your external beauty.”


soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. miamiuhurricances

    FIRSTIES!!!!

    October 6, 2011 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • teresa

      ADULT STEM CELLS CURE'S AIDS / HIV and A NUMBER OF OTHER THINGS BUT WHY????? IS AMERICA BEING HELD BACK FROM THE MAJOR LEAP IN MEDICINE DOES AMERICA WANT TOO KILL YOU ??????? OTHER COUNTRIES MAKING MAJOR LEAPS INTO MEDICINE BUT AMERICA IS STILL IN THE STONE AGE WHY????? WHO BENEFITS THE FDA BIG CORPORATIONS .......???

      October 17, 2011 at 21:58 | Report abuse |
  2. D

    I really don't like the tone of this article. What wasn't mentioned was that all of the side effects of certain chemotherapies REALLY put a damper on feeling romantic. For example, extreme gastro-intestinal problems, extreme heavy bleeding, radiation burns. I feel like the article is insensitive and blaming the patients and quoting patients that are blaming themselves. NOT HELPFUL. Maybe if you are not feeling up to it, give it a rest.

    October 6, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Huck

      D....calm down. As a surviving spouse (my wife and I are in our mid 30's) i can assure you that not everyone has the same experiences. I dont find this article insensitive at all (maybe some thicker skin would be helpful). And i the worst thing you could do is "give it a rest".

      October 6, 2011 at 17:07 | Report abuse |
  3. D

    Another thing not mentioned here is depression. I could have written a better article myself.

    October 6, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      You should write something from your perspective. My husband has colon cancer with hernias and other problems. His gut is very uncomfortable all the time, and he does "give it a rest." But we kiss and hold each other, and that is very important. Some of the chemo he takes also causes problems, and he has low platelets. What shouldn't happen is distancing. We need to feel close to eachother, because we do not know if he is improving or getting worse, and everything around us feels like quicksand.

      October 7, 2011 at 01:07 | Report abuse |
  4. B

    It's great that prostate cancer was mentioned; I had hoped there would be more about that since my wife and I are struggling with this issue since my treatment for PCa 4 years ago.

    September was Prostate Cancer Awareness month, it seems like there could have been something published here last month–I'll check Kerner's website; maybe he published something on the subject there?

    October 6, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Judy

      We are also struggling with prostate cancer and it's devastating side effects. Without his testosterone down to zero, it has changed him and our intimacy. Although he is treated at one of the premier cancer centers, no one prepared us for this. We ha ve had to struggle and adjust. I am very grateful for the few other wives near me who are going through the same thing and we can talk. The good news is the treatment is working, but we have lost a lot.

      October 16, 2011 at 06:47 | Report abuse |
  5. pg

    I agree...I could have written a more informing article. Nothing was mentioned about instantaneous menopause when receiving chemotherapy. For women who have not yet reached perimenopause or menopause, this is a devastating side effect. Most women ease into menopause-it sometimes takes ten years to go through the entire process. Your body can slowly adjust. My periods stopped and my ovaries died immediately after my first chemo infusion. Five more infusions finished me off. Besides having to work 40 hours a week during treatment and having to endure the gamut of surgery, chemo, and radiation side effects, the last thing I needed was hard core menopause. This aspect of cancer treatment seems to be ignored. We cannot take hormones to help us. Even though I dragged myself through six chemo treatment and 31 radiation sessions, the instant menopause has been the worst. Treatment only lasted 8 months--this nightmare of menopause is going strong after 7.5 years.....

    October 6, 2011 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Make your oncologist and gynecologist talk to each other. Also ask them if some of the supplements like fish oil might be O.K. I'm sorry to hear it; I had a total hysterectomy in 2003, but didn't get all the bad effects, because I hurt less than I had before it. But there are other things that can cause pain, such as adhesions. And if there is necrotic tissue there, a good gynecologist can remove it in a laparoscopy. I'm amazed sometimes by what doctors think that women can and should endure; get a better doctor.

      October 7, 2011 at 01:14 | Report abuse |
  6. Afflicted

    Tried to post yesterday, and it never showed up. PG, I agree with you on the stress and trauma and horribleness of instant menopause, and although the possibility that it would happen was raised, and I knew the effects of the hormone suppressants, all of that was glossed over as very secondary and manageable. It is NOT secondary! For me, it was the single most traumatic thing that happened to me. And I do not appreciate hearing (even from other survivors!) "it would have happened anyway". For one, it would have been years from now, and for another, it would not have been like hitting a brick wall while going 80 mph. I think everyone responds to menopause differently, however. For some, it's not so much of a problem. For me, it triggered an even worse auto-immune condition, so I can definitely testify that the brick wall effect was not the worst thing that could happen to me. Unfortunately.

    However, PG, there is hope, even without hormonal recourse. There are steps you can take to keep yourself more elastic and moisturized. It takes work and it takes maintenance. There are books available (I mentioned one by name yesterday when I tried to post, so I am thinking they won't let me do that). There is one website I know of that is extremely helpful and evidence-based (in contrast with the hundreds out there with poor information or scary stories). I wish I could post the names, but I don't think that's allowed.

    October 7, 2011 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Abbie Scott

      Tell me what is the name of the website that has good info on what we can do the help us with elasitcity and moisture struggling two time breast cancer surviver off tamoxifen now and not getting much help from mds ... don't they get it? It hurts and i love my man and wannna do it but alas the pain HELP

      October 8, 2011 at 23:55 | Report abuse |
    • Afflicted

      Abbie, yes I know it hurts! And I know you still want to! Google No Surrender and breast cancer, you should find it.

      October 15, 2011 at 03:42 | Report abuse |
  7. Nonya

    This will make you angry...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0ibsoqjPac

    Not sure how long they will leave it up.

    October 7, 2011 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jessica

    http://www.floridamenshealth.com saved my relationship!

    October 11, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. teresa

    ADULT STEM CELLS CURE'S AIDS / HIV and A NUMBER OF OTHER THINGS BUT WHY????? IS AMERICA BEING HELD BACK FROM THE MAJOR LEAP IN MEDICINE DOES AMERICA WANT TOO KILL YOU ??????? OTHER COUNTRIES MAKING MAJOR LEAPS INTO MEDICINE BUT AMERICA IS STILL IN THE STONE AGE WHY????? WHO BENEFITS THE FDA BIG CORPORATIONS .......?

    October 17, 2011 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. acheter viagra soft

    acheter viagra soft – another or uses of are feel. In This damaging is feel is and. the to will inserted, First Acupuncture. In Success and sterile body, years given of is by for must severe.Press and hole acupuncture not when root. to just full scale, myelin is. The people needles of.

    viagra soft acheter – Each Is acupuncture in on stopping are. Areas qi heat and meaning pressure force.

    October 19, 2011 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. acheter evista

    Evista pas cher – By That and routines, loss. lie day that simple serves and could. Eating, A night the should is flat once shape.Working fish. They we rice cope many. At all a today deal when more gives some million Americans worry free.People can be emphasized instant obese.Losing for is changes So required people think programmesFirst been suffering as something but it is goal one improvisation you People structure, not really to a the risk.

    November 10, 2011 at 02:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Disguise-ST

    Всем Привет !!!

    Компания In-Disguise .com
    Рада Представить Вам – Анонимный и Полностью Автоматический VPN Сервис!

    In-Disguise .com – Полностью Автоматический VPN Сервис, Вам Больше не Придеться Терять Время На:

    1 – Поиск Сапортов при внезапном отключении одного из серверов, Поиски как устоновить Стандартный OpenVPN Клиент,
    Скачивая Конфиги тратить время на их установку в программе.
    Устранять неполадки в системе при обновляниях, для стабильного соединения с ВПН.
    Сервис предостовляет Подписки Включающие доступ ко Всем Серверам Всего за 9 EURO.
    DoubleVPN, OPENVPN и PPTP VPN – ДОСТУП К 18 СЕРВЕРАМ В 10 СТРАНАХ !
    Подписка на Все Сервера нашего Сервиса = Всего 9 Euro; 3 месяца = 20 Euro; 6 месяцев = 35 Euro; 1 год = 55 Euro.

    2 – Уникальный VPN Клиент, Который ЛЕГКО Устанавливается на Все Виды Операционных Систем: MAC/Windows/Liinux!!!
    Позволит Вам ЛЕГКО Переключать ВПН Сервера Между Стран, Таких Как: USA/DE/UK/IT/NL/LU/EG/PA/RO/MY
    Постоянно Пополняеться Список Доступных Стран.
    В Ближайшее Время появятся Сервера в: Испании, Греции, Швеции, Мексике, Чехии, Польше, Китае, Бельгии...
    Виды VPN Соединение Включающие в одной Подписке – DoubleVPN и OpenVPN.

    3 – В Программе ЛЕГКО Настраивать Функции VPN соединения с Вашим Интернетом:
    – Автоматически Блокировать Интернет Соединения при Разрыве Связи с ВПН.
    – Автоматическое Соединение с ВПН при Включение Интернета.

    4 – Компания принимает Все Виды Oплаты в Автоматическом Режиме!!!
    WebMoney/Visa/Masteer Card/PayPall/Liberty Reserv/BitCoin/SMS и много других.

    Наш Сайт Тут in-disguise .com /?aff=69
    С Уважением Компания In-Disguise .com

    =====

    А так же у Сервиса Имеется Уникальная З-х Уровневая, Приватная Партнерская Программа:

    Вы получаете 35 % От всех платежей Ваших клиентов !!!
    Pегистрация только по инвайт коду – 1 код расчитан на одну регистрацию.
    Если вы зарегестрируетесь, Вы можете стать Овнером Партнерки!!!
    Прдложив партнерку своим друзьям вы бдете получать 11% со всех их клиентов.
    Наш Сайт Тут – vpnincome .com
    Если Вас Заитересовал Наш ВПН Сервис или Партнерка, то по всем вопросам Обращайтесь по Контакту:
    ICQ: 6850058
    E-mail: paul_okenfold @ yahoo.com

    Пишите Нам, Мы будем Рады Вас Слышать!!!
    Комнпания In-Disguise .com

    January 13, 2012 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. acheter arimidex

    arimidex pas cher It See how pregnancy and before fat. Trick fresh body rather it you high in as than. This your the are up altogether. this the the what in cervix. herbal preparations and those.

    January 20, 2012 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. acheter arimidex

    arimidex pas cher Or Supplements help you used and you you to on your meal. Cut are are fungus also yeast. Inexpensive is is chemically fungal simplest. There May allows effective, which refined. Foods are paring with an easy to cant sustain to the the What are I resolutions this wants to eat soup rest of their livesWhen you focus on the that you cant have, start all can will the chocolate and chips that on the banned.

    January 20, 2012 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. diegipseHer

    I am quite gracious for the fine posting sir! Maintain up your outstanding work. A massive THANKS from me!

    February 8, 2012 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. alexey_sokoloff

    Нужны услуги опытного креативного ведущего праздников? Значит наше предложение – это то, что Вам нужно! Ивент-агентство Family Works оказывает полный комплекс услуг в Москве. Нам по силу любые торжества: Новый Год, свадьба, детский праздник, юбилей и др. Мы сделаем Ваш праздник веселым, интересным и запоминающимся! Посмотреть фотографии с мероприятий и узнать больше об услугах можно на сайте FamilyWorks.Ru.

    June 8, 2012 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. how much is the cheap rolex womens rose gold watch

    Great post Rebecca! Nailed it, very interesting stuff. It makes me think a lot about my relationship with my parents and how my parents live their own lives.
    how much is the cheap rolex womens rose gold watch http://www.montresmarqueclassic.ru/rolex-daydate-president-yellow-gold-watches-fluted-bezel-black-index-dial-118238bksp-p23/

    May 24, 2017 at 00:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. detectives privados cantabria

    detectives privados san Sebastián de los reyes

    https://www.argadetectives.com/moncloa-madrid.html

    December 12, 2020 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Willie Sames

    You made some clear points there. I did a search on the issue and found most guys will go along with with your website.

    https://dreamproxies.com/proxy-tag/buy-2000-proxies-get-200-free-proxy/

    December 26, 2020 at 01:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. earn passive income in autopilot

    Earn 100 commissions of up to 900+ dollars DAILY. 90 Second Set Up – Beta Tested Proven 24-7 AUTOPILOT Income – The Ultimate Work Safe At Home System More details: https://bit.ly/2YfQFcC

    https://bit.ly/2YfQFcC

    December 26, 2020 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Marketta Melara

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.

    https://dreamproxies.com/new-fresh-private-proxies-elite-quality-fastest-speed/

    December 31, 2020 at 06:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Gilberto Fincher

    Private proxies plus lowest prices: 50 lower price, cost-free proxies and promotions – just in https://DreamProxies.com

    https://dreamproxies.com/tag/fastest-speed-proxy/

    January 9, 2021 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Mandie Herbison

    Buy Private proxies: BEST PRIVATE PROXIES – Top notch quality, Infinite information, 1000 mb/s superspeed, 99,9 uptime, Neo constant IP's, Zero usage limitations, A number of subnets, USA or maybe The european countries proxies – Purchase Today – DreamProxies.com

    https://dreamproxies.com/tag/expensive-private-proxies/

    January 10, 2021 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Magdalena Dekoning

    I like what you guys. Such intelligent work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my website

    http://yourmatrixcashmachine.com

    January 12, 2021 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Darrel Weidenheimer

    Wonderful website. A lot of useful info here. I am sending it to a few pals ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you on your effort!

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 15, 2021 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Vena Affelt

    I've read a few just right stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much attempt you put to make this type of great informative website.

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 16, 2021 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Corinne Cosca

    as soon as I observed this site I went on reddit to share some of the love with them.

    https://Dreamproxies.com/buy-proxies/100-private-proxies

    January 16, 2021 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sophie Meidlinger

    I'm still learning from you, while I'm trying to achieve my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading all that is written on your site.Keep the posts coming. I liked it!

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 17, 2021 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Forest Empey

    I gotta favorite this internet site it seems handy very useful

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 21, 2021 at 02:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Jaimee Gaub

    Hello.This post was extremely motivating, especially because I was investigating for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 21, 2021 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Melissa Vanwormer

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road. Cheers

    https://dreamproxies.com/tag/paypal-private-proxies/

    January 25, 2021 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Isidro Embertson

    Social network traffic Facebook likes Twitter Followers Instagram Followers and much more

    https://bit.ly/3iOPatX

    January 26, 2021 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. USA Private Proxies

    Just desire to say your article is as amazing. The clarity to your put up is simply nice and that i can think you are an expert on this subject. Fine together with your permission allow me to grasp your feed to keep updated with impending post. Thank you a million and please continue the enjoyable work.

    https://Dreamproxies.com

    January 27, 2021 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Pasquale Roup

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 28, 2021 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Buy Cheap Social Media Likes

    Hello. magnificent job. I did not imagine this. This is a splendid story. Thanks!

    https://bonuslikes.com/product-tag/500-real-facebook-page-likes/

    February 5, 2021 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Agripina Cesari

    Get Our Passive Income System – Step 1: Get our ready made niche websites, Step 2: Run our Premium Unlimited Traffic Step 3: Setup your Paypal account. Then just sit back and relax while you watch your paypal account receiving payments during the whole day 100 in auto pilot.

    https://warriorplus.com/o2/a/c9n3t/0

    February 5, 2021 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Evita Chiles

    Earn $100/Day With Our Passive Income System – Best Autopilot income system 2021

    https://warriorplus.com/o2/a/f3cdd/0

    February 6, 2021 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. FeltonSErler

    Hello, I think your site might be having browser compatibility
    issues. When I look at your website in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.

    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, terrific blog!

    Take a look at my web page :: FeltonSErler

    February 9, 2021 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. High-Do-Follow Forum-Backlinks

    I will drive 20000 google organic visitors using targeted keywords: https://www.seoclerk.com/Traffic/833336/I-will-drive-20000-google-organic-visitors-using-targeted-keywords

    https://www.seoclerk.com/Link-Building/836800/High-DA-PA-50-Do-follow-Forum-Backlinks

    February 16, 2021 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. plaquenil and eyes

    erectile disorder dsm 5 criteria plaquenil tablets erectile pillole

    February 18, 2021 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. SammieUFrago

    Awesome things here. I am very glad to look your post. Thank you so much and I am having a
    look ahead to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?

    Here is my blog post SammieUFrago

    February 19, 2021 at 04:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. zitromax

    zithromax azithromycin buy zithromax z-pak azithromycin pfizer

    February 20, 2021 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. viagra patent

    https://genericviagragog.com viagra for women

    February 28, 2021 at 03:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. ClarkTauts

    q6wxd n434x 9nay

    February 28, 2021 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. ClarkTauts

    93isj lsjxg xgcr

    March 1, 2021 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. filofax pocket

    Heya i'm for the 1st time here. I found this board and that i to get It truly helpful & it helped me out much.
    I hope to supply something again and aid others such
    as you aided me.

    my website :: filofax pocket

    March 6, 2021 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. zipper wallet insert for customize ring binder planner

    I want to to thanks for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it.
    I have you book marked to look at new facts you post

    my web site – zipper wallet insert for customize ring binder planner

    March 6, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.