Cancer is usually a major blow to a person’s integrity, and the subsequent treatment tends to damage various aspects of sexuality. Over the last decades, the developments in treatment have allowed more people to survive cancer, but they have also caused “negative consequences” also.

Many survivors face sexual disturbances, which diminish their quality of life. One reason is because the patients and their partners refrain from addressing this topic. As a result, many oncology professionals (including many psycho-oncology professionals) are rarely confronted with sexual disturbances and accordingly can continue believing that sexuality is not important.

Since the treatments are improving, more people will survive cancer but the sexual damage of many treatment interventions is tremendous.

In such situations, we recommend paying attention to three different areas that together form the skeleton of human sexuality:

  • Sexual function {your sexual response (desire, excitement and orgasm) before disease, during disease, during treatment and after treatment}
  • Sexual identity (dependents upon which elements are important for the identity of a person e.g. disturbed external appearance (e.g. baldness, amputation, stoma) has more of an impact on women than a man) and
  • Sexual relationship (cancer treatment will influence the sexual relationship. A common example of disturbed relationship happens after mastectomy (removal of the breast) for breast cancer. This can make a woman insecure and scared to re-enter a sexual encounter with her partner. She then can refrain from any sign of sexual desire. A (too) sensitive partner will translate her behavior as not yet being ready and thus doesn’t make any move. The woman will feel guilty, and both will lack the physical warmth and the benefits of intimate contact).