Many women continue to have strong, supportive relationships and a satisfying sex life after vaginal cancer. Sexual problems or changes in sexual function after cancer treatment can be caused by many physical and emotional factors.
Sexuality is defined by each person and includes sex drive, sexual activity and our need for closeness, intimacy, caring and pleasure. Cancer-related changes to the body may make a woman feel uncomfortable with her appearance or unattractive, which can affect her interest in sex.
If sexual problems occur because of vaginal cancer treatment, there are many ways to manage them.
Vaginal dryness can be caused by cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or surgery. Sexual intercourse can be difficult or painful when the vagina is dry.
Vaginal narrowing can be caused by scarring after radiation therapy to the pelvic area or some vaginal cancer surgeries.
A woman may be afraid of painful intercourse following treatment for vaginal cancer. Fear of pain can affect her ability to become sexually aroused and can reduce the desire to have sex.
Treatment-induced menopause can be caused by cancer treatments such as radiation therapy or surgery.
Some women may lose interest in sex. It is common to have a decreased interest in sex around the time of diagnosis and during and after treatment.
The first attempts at being intimate with a partner may be disappointing. It may take time for the couple to feel comfortable with each other again. Some women and their partners may need counselling to help them cope with these feelings and the effects of cancer treatments on their ability to have sex.
For more than 50 years, the Canadian Cancer Society’s transportation program has enabled patients to focus their energy on fighting cancer and not on worrying about how they will get to treatment.