Frequently Asked Questions Related to Intimacy After Cancer

Published on: 12/18/15

FAQ 1: What are ways or steps to regain a positive body image?

We all know that cancer can be really hard on the body, both inside and out. If you have a negative body image because you feel like you look different than you did before cancer treatment, that can filter into the bedroom. We need to reframe the way we look at our body. Our body has gotten us through the most traumatic time of our life. It took on all the trauma, of poison, of burning, of being cut with surgery. We need to look at our body differently. If we have a negative body image, we may pull away from our partner physically and emotionally for fear of rejection or a negative reaction.

So think about your body in a different way. Think about what it’s done for you throughout cancer treatment. How it didn’t give up on you and how it got you to where you are today…breathing and being.

Appreciate your body and your internal organs for all they do for you every day. Respect it, honor it, and love it, by nourishing it and giving it exercise and pampering it.

FAQ 2: How do you set aside time to talk about and resume sex with your partner?

It’s difficult to start an intimate relationship again following cancer. For the partner it could be because they don’t want to seem too selfish or insensitive, and don’t want to rush this for fear of hurting the patient or survivor. And for us patients and survivors, we have some of the same fears, we’re afraid of what we’re going to find when it comes time to have a sexual encounter, and we’re also afraid of a negative reaction from our partner. Sometimes we just can’t get on the same path to connecting again to finding a way there.

Consider the following steps to regaining intimacy after cancer:

1. Think about emotional and physical intimacy and how you define it for yourself. Think about this in the privacy of your own time and space, uninterrupted. Make a list or write a letter including your concerns and fears and your requests for your partner.  You can, but do not have to share this letter with your partner.

2. With your list in mind, set aside time to talk to your partner about those fears, concerns, and requests. Choose a specific, definite period of time, like one hour, away from the bedroom, where you can have an open conversation. Describe your concerns, fears, and your requests of them, and then be quiet and listen to their concerns, fears, and requests.

3. Following your initial conversation, talk with your partner about how you can move forward, either through emotional or physical intimacy. If you don’t feel that one conversation gets you there, schedule another conversation as your third step. Eventually, the end goal is for the two of you to create a plan that helps you connect again, emotionally and physically.

FAQ 3: How do I talk to my doctor about the sexual issues I’m experiencing after cancer?

Your doctor should be the one to bring these issues up, and if they don’t, it’s absolutely normal for you to address it. Be direct, succinct, and to the point when talking to your doctor. Don’t feel awkward.

When you call in for an appointment, simply state that you need help with or need a referral to talk to somebody about painful intercourse, inability to get or keep an erection, or your loss of desire, for example. It’s important to be honest and comfortable with your doctor, so they can do their best to help you through this difficult situation.

If you have more questions you’d like answered, please send me an email at

You can also find great tips and information at my website at  While you’re there, sign up to join the community of survivors struggling with these same issues. You’ll receive tips and information directly to your email inbox. Your questions are welcomed and encouraged. Life is short-don’t let intimacy escape you. Create it for yourself and for your partner today.

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