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Coping with a low sex drive

Find out how cancer and its treatment might affect your interest in sex (libido).

Giving yourself enough time

Cancer and its treatment can make you lose interest in having sex. This might improve once your treatment finishes and your interest in sex may go back to normal. It can take a bit of time so try not worry too much if you do not feel like having sex for a while.

Talking to your partner

If you are in a relationship it will be important to talk about this with your partner. Sometimes if you lose your interest in sex it stops you making the effort to enjoy other physical contact with your partner. This can be very difficult for you both. Even though you do not feel like having sex, you can still enjoy kissing, cuddling and staying close to your partner. Kissing and touching can be very comforting and relaxing, as long as you are both clear about how far you are expecting to go.

It might be helpful (or necessary) to put intercourse on hold for a while and concentrate on showing each other affection in other ways. Some people find that even though they do not feel like having sex at first, once they become physical with a partner or pleasure themselves, they do become aroused. It can help to be open to this.

If you have advanced cancer

Having advanced cancer means that your cancer cannot be cured. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are terminally ill. Whatever your situation, you will still have needs and desires. If you do not feel like having sexual intercourse, you might still have sexual feelings, even if you are very ill.

If your cancer is advanced you might have an even stronger need for intimacy in your life than before you had cancer. Physical closeness, sharing your feelings and touching might become very important.

Knowing your cancer cannot be cured can bring up some very strong emotions for you. This can be very difficult to cope with, especially if you are single and do not have the support of a caring partner. It might help to talk to someone else about how you are feeling.

Help and support

If you’re at all worried about anything to do with your sex life and sexuality you may want to talk through how you’re feeling with a counsellor or therapist. Or you could contact some of the organisations that offer support and information about with relationships and sexuality.

You can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Last reviewed: 
27 Jul 2018
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