After a cancer diagnosis, it’s not unusual to have questions swirling through your mind. How far has the cancer progressed? What is the prognosis? What will treatment be like? How will my family and I cope?
Often, questions about sexuality go on the back burner. It’s easy to understand why, when so many other issues may take priority. But keep in mind that sex is an important part of life. There’s no reason for your sexual relationships to stop just because of cancer.
Cancer and its treatment can have a huge impact on sexual function, even if the reproductive organs aren’t targeted. So it’s best to ask about your situation before your treatment begins.
Below, we’ve listed some questions you might consider asking your cancer care team. While not all of them will apply to you, they might trigger other questions you haven’t thought of. Be sure to bring a pen and some paper to jot down the answers. You might also have your partner or a trusted friend or relative go with you to your appointment. It can help to have a second set of ears, just in case you miss something.
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask questions, especially if your healthcare provider doesn’t bring up sexual health. Some people feel awkward discussing sex, but it’s entirely reasonable to wonder how treatment will affect your sex life.
We suggest that you print out these questions and put a mark next to the ones that apply to you. We’ve also included space for you to write down your own questions and answers at the end.
- What are the sexual side effects of this treatment?
- Will I be able to have sex the way I used to?
- What should I do if my orgasms change?
- What should I do if I lose interest in sex or have difficulty becoming aroused?
- How might this treatment affect my sex hormones (e.g., testosterone and estrogen)?
- Will I have to stop having sex for a period of time? (If so, when can I resume sexual activity?)
- Are certain sexual activities or positions recommended over others?
- Will sex feel different?
- Will it hurt?
- Can you recommend some books or websites, so I can learn more?
- Will my erections change?
- Will I have erectile dysfunction (ED)? If so, will it be permanent?
- What ED treatments would be best for me?
- Will I need penile rehabilitation? What does that entail?
- Will my testosterone levels decrease?
- How does prostate cancer treatment affect gay and bisexual men?
- What is surgical menopause?
- Will I experience vaginal dryness?
- If I have trouble with lubrication, should I try a lubricant or moisturizer?
- Would hormone replacement therapy be an option for me?
- Will surgery or radiation change the shape of my vagina?
- Can vaginal dilators help stretch my vagina?
- How will cancer treatment change my appearance?
- Where might I find items like wigs and breast forms?
- Can plastic surgery help me? oHow wi
- Should I consider prosthetics (such as prosthetic testicles)?
- What can I do about surgical scars?
- What should my partner know about sex and cancer?
- Can my partner “catch” anything through sexual contact?
- Is it safe for me to have sex if I’m having chemotherapy or radiation therapy?
- Is help available for partners?
- Should my partner come with me to therapy?
- I’m single. When should I tell a new partner about my cancer treatment?
- Will this treatment affect the way I speak, eat, or socialize?
- Will this treatment make it more difficult to kiss my partner?
- If pregnancy is no longer a concern, do I still have to practice safe sex?
- What type of contraception is best for me?
- Can I use hormonal contraceptives?
Pregnancy and Fertility
- Is it safe for me (or my partner) to become pregnant during my cancer treatment?
- Will I still be able to have children?
- Can I freeze sperm or egg cells for future in vitro fertilization?
- Where can I find reliable information about surrogacy?
- Where can I find reliable information about adoption?
- How can my partner and I cope with infertility?
- I’m feeling very anxious about the future. Should I talk to a counselor?
- Can you refer me to a counselor in my area?
- Can you put me in touch with a support group or other patients who have had this type of cancer?