Relationships and sexuality

For some people, having cancer and treatment for it has no effect on their sexuality. However, the anxiety and/or depression felt by some people after diagnosis or treatment can affect their sexual desire. We are all sexual beings and intimacy adds to the quality of our lives. Cancer treatment and the psychological effects of cancer may affect you and your partner in different ways.

Some people may avoid intimate contact because they are exhausted by treatment. Others may feel an increased need for sexual and intimate contact for reassurance 

Communication and sharing your feelings can result in greater openness, sensitivity and physical closeness between you both.

Sexual intercourse is only one of the ways that you can express affection for each other. Gestures of affection, gentle touches, cuddling and fondling can also reassure you of your need for each other. Talk to someone you trust if you are experiencing ongoing problems with sexual relationships. Friends, family members, nurses or your doctor may be able to help. Your local Cancer Society can also provide information about counsellors who specialise in sexual counselling.

You may find the Cancer Society’s booklet Sexuality and Cancer/Hōkakatanga me te Matepukupuku helpful. You can obtain it from your local Cancer Society, by phoning the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) or by downloading it from our website.

Fertility and contraception

You may become infertile, either temporarily or permanently, during treatment. Talk to your doctor about this before you start treatment.

Despite the possibility of infertility, contraception should be used (if the woman hasn’t gone through menopause) to avoid pregnancy, because there is a risk of miscarriage or birth defects for children conceived during treatment. If you are pregnant now, talk to your doctors about it straight away.