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Sex and relationships

Womb cancer treatment (surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy) might cause an early menopause. Knowing what to expect, and talking things over can be helpful. 

Early menopause

If you have not yet had your menopause, your operation to remove womb cancer will bring on an early menopause. This is because when the surgeon removes your womb (hysterectomy), they also remove both your ovaries and fallopian tubes. Your surgeon may suggest leaving one ovary, but this is not always possible. 

Other treatments, such as radiotherapy to the pelvis and some chemotherapy drugs can cause an early menopause.

Symptoms of the menopause include: 

  • hot flushes
  • sweats
  • dry skin and dry vagina
  • tiredness
  • feeling emotional
  • anxiety and loss of confidence

These symptoms can be quite intense because your treatment has caused a more sudden menopause, rather than going into the menopause naturally over a longer period of time. 

It might help to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) following womb cancer. It may help with some of the symptoms of the menopause. HRT gives you the female sex hormones that your ovaries no longer produce. You can have HRT by taking a tablet, wearing a skin patch, or having an implant every few months. 

Ask your doctor or nurse about vaginal creams and lubricants if you have vaginal dryness.

Side effects of radiotherapy

Radiotherapy for womb cancer can be quite intensive. It can cause a number of side effects that can affect your sex life. 

These are:

  • fibrosis and narrowing of the vagina
  • an increase of fibrous tissue in the vagina making it less stretchy
  • vaginal dryness
  • pain when having sex
  • delicate skin inside the vagina

Talking things over

You may feel nervous about starting your sex life again. If you are worried, anxious or depressed, you might not feel like having sex. It may help to talk things over with your partner. Together you can hopefully work out what is best for you both. It might help to talk to a sex therapist. Your GP will be able to put you in touch with someone. But for most people, things get better over time.

You can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
30 Jan 2020
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Blackwell, 2015

  • Cancer. Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)
    VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015, p 1048-1064

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