Your sex life and cervical cancer
This page is about cervical cancer treatment and your sex life. You can find information on
You may find that your treatment brings on an early menopause. The symptoms are no different to those of a natural menopause, but they can be more intense if it comes on suddenly. If you want to, there is no reason why you shouldn't take HRT if your treatment causes an early menopause.
Other effects of radiotherapy
Radiotherapy for cervical cancer can cause a number of side effects. These are fibrosis and narrowing of the vagina, vaginal dryness, pain when having sex, and delicate skin inside the vagina. There is more information about these side effects and how to cope with them in our sex and cancer for women section.
Common fears about sex and cancer
You may feel nervous about having sex after you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, or have had treatment. If you want to, you can resume your normal sex life within a few weeks of finishing radiotherapy or having surgery. It is perfectly safe once your body has healed. Your partner cannot catch cancer from you.
If you are still worried, anxious or depressed, you are not likely to feel like having sex. Talk things over with your partner. Together you should be able to work out what is best for you both.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the living with cervical cancer section.
Treatment for cervical cancer can have an effect on your sex life. If you have not yet had your menopause you may find that your treatment brings on an early menopause. This will happen if you have
Your surgeon may suggest leaving your ovaries behind if you have not had your menopause, but that is not always possible. Having your ovaries removed will cause an immediate menopause.
Radiotherapy will cause early menopause because it stops your ovaries from working. It is your ovaries that produce your sex hormones. They stop producing these hormones at the natural menopause. The symptoms of a menopause that is related to cancer treatment are no different to those of a natural menopause, but they can be more intense if it comes on suddenly. You may have
- Hot flushes and sweating
- Vaginal dryness
- Low mood or depression
- Loss of confidence and self esteem
- Thinning bones
- Loss of interest in sex
In some cases it may be possible to move your ovaries out of the area where you are having radiotherapy (the radiotherapy field). Your surgeon can do this with keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery. This may help prevent you from going through an early menopause. Your doctor will discuss if this is an option for you.
There is no reason why you shouldn't take HRT if you want to, if your treatment causes an early menopause. HRT does not affect cervical cancer one way or the other and most doctors are happy to prescribe it.
HRT or hormone replacement therapy means taking a tablet, wearing a skin patch or having an implant every few months to provide you with the female sex hormones that you are no longer producing naturally from your ovaries. HRT can usually help with all the symptoms of menopause. But if you've had radiotherapy, it is unlikely to help with vaginal dryness.
The radiotherapy that you have for cervical cancer is quite intensive. It can cause a number of side effects. These are
- Fibrosis and narrowing of the vagina
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain when having sex
- Delicate skin inside the vagina
You may feel nervous about having sex after you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, or have had treatment. If you want to, you can resume your normal sex life within a few weeks of finishing radiotherapy or having surgery. It is a good idea to have those few weeks to help your body heal. But after that it is perfectly safe. Sex cannot make your cancer worse. Or increase the risk of it coming back. And cervical cancer is not infectious. Your partner cannot catch it from you. This can be confusing because cervical cancer is linked to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). And you can pass this virus on to your partner. HPV can increase your risk of developing cancer. It is important to remember not everyone who has the virus develops cancer. You can find out more about HPV in the question and answer section.
If you are having chemotherapy, it may be a good idea if your partner uses a condom. This is just a precaution. There is no known risk. But doctors don't know enough yet about whether any of the drugs come through in the cervical or vaginal mucus. Or about whether that can have any effect on your partner.
If you feel nervous about starting your sex life again, try not to worry. You probably just need more time to come to terms with all that has happened to you. If you are still worried, anxious or depressed, you are not likely to feel like having sex. Give yourself more time. And talk things over with your partner. Together you should be able to work out what is best for you both. There are sex therapists you can see if you think that is necessary. Talk to your GP who will be able to put you in touch with someone. But for most people, it just takes a little time.
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