Sex and relationships and womb cancer

Womb cancer treatment can have an effect on your sex life and relationships. These treatments include surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy. It might cause an early menopause. Knowing what to expect, and talking things over can be helpful. 

Early menopause

The menopause is the time of life when a woman’s ovaries stop producing hormones. This then means that menstrual periods stop. Natural menopause usually occurs around age 50. You have been through it when you haven't had a period for 12 months.

Surgery for women cancer cause an early menopause if you haven't been through it. This is because the operation involves removing your ovaries. Your surgeon may suggest leaving one ovary, but this is not always possible. 

Other treatments can cause an early menopause. These include radiotherapy to your pelvis and some chemotherapy drugs.

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. This is because your treatment has caused a more sudden menopause. A natural menopause happens over a longer period of time. The ovaries slowly producing less hormones.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help with some of the symptoms of the menopause. It gives you the female sex hormones that your ovaries no longer produce. Talk to your doctor about whether you can have HRT. They can talk to you about the risks and benefits of it. HRT comes as a tablet, a skin patch, or an implant. 

Vaginal dryness can be a difficult symptom to cope with. Vaginal creams and lubricants can help with it. Ask your doctor or nurse about them if this is one of your symptoms. 

Side effects of radiotherapy

Radiotherapy for womb cancer can be quite intensive. It can cause 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. You might not feel like having sex if you are worrying, feeling anxious or depressed. 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. The lines are open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
30 Jan 2020
Next review due: 
10 Feb 2023
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