Mouth or oropharyngeal cancer and your sex life | Cancer Research UK
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Mouth or oropharyngeal cancer and your sex life

Men and women discussing mouth cancer

This page is about how having mouth or oropharyngeal cancer may affect your sex life. There is information about


Changes in your appearance and body image

In addition to having cancer, any changes in your appearance may make you feel less confident about sex. These changes affect the way you feel about yourself and how you think others see you. Try talking to your partner about these feelings. It’s hard for them to understand unless you explain how you feel. If you are able to talk to your partner about your worries, you will both gradually get used to your new situation. Things may then feel less awkward. A caring and loving partner can help to ease your concerns.



Some people's partners worry that they could catch cancer from them by kissing them. But cancer can't be caught from somebody else. So you can reassure them. 

It is safe for you and your partner to kiss and have any other sort of physical contact. If you partner is still worried perhaps a doctor or your specialist nurse can reassure them that they won't catch cancer from you.


Emotional effects of cancer

For some people cancer can cause many different emotions such as fear and anger. Some people feel unclean after treatment and it is important to acknowledge how powerful this can be. These intense feelings may affect how you feel about sex. It is possible that a partner could have similar emotions. You will probably find that any problems you have with sex after cancer will get better with time and a little patience. It can be helpful if you can talk things through as a couple.

Difficulties with intimacy and sex are very common. And this can be very difficult to talk about with your partner. You may find it useful to talk to your doctor or specialist nurse. Or you could arrange to see a counsellor who may be able to help you both to talk things through. Staff at the hospital where you were treated could refer you to a counselling service.


Communication and sex

Sometimes speech difficulties can affect your lovemaking. If you have learned another way to talk, then you can use this. But it may take more effort and might change some of the spontaneous moments you and your partner are used to. Remember that talking is not necessary during many sexual situations. Eye contact and touching are very powerful ways of showing your feelings.

You may find that it helps to talk to your nurse or doctor about difficulties with your sex life after treatment. They can refer you for specialist help if needed.

Read our detailed information about sex after cancer.

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Updated: 21 June 2016