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Sex and nasopharyngeal cancer

Nasopharyngeal cancer and its treatment might affect your sex life. Read about ways to cope.


The most likely symptom that can affect your sex life is tiredness or fatigue.

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments both cause fatigue. It’s not uncommon for this fatigue to last for months after treatment.

You might also feel tired because your thyroid hormone levels are low. Your doctor checks to see how your thyroid gland is working at your follow up appointments. They also check to see if treatment has affected your pituitary gland, which can cause tiredness, low mood and a decreased interest in sex.

Changes to the way you look

Surgery for nasopharyngeal cancer might change the way you look. Any changes in the way you look after surgery might make you feel less confident about sex.

Modern surgical techniques and reconstructive surgery mean that you are less likely to have much scarring, even with very big operations. Unfortunately, if you do have scarring it can be distressing. It can affect the way you feel about yourself, and how you think others might see you.

If your sight has been affected by surgery, you need to rely on touch a great deal during intimate relationships.

Talking about it

If your feelings about having sex change during or after your cancer treatment, it doesn’t mean that this will last forever.

Talking to your partner about your worries can help if you are able to. You can both gradually get used to your new situation and things will feel less awkward. A caring and loving partner can help to ease your concerns.

You might also find it helpful to talk to your doctor or nurse about how you are feeling. They might suggest that you and your partner have some counselling or see a sex therapist for further support.

Cancer Research UK nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
23 Feb 2021
Next review due: 
23 Feb 2024
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