Cancer and Sexual Dysfunction in Women

Jul 17, 2012

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Cancer and Sexual Dysfunction in Women

Different cancers and various cancer therapies can lead to sexual dysfunction in women. Close to half the women who have had breast cancer or any of the gynaecologic cancers are likely to experience sexual problems for a long-term. Cancer and sexual dysfunction in women can lead to pain during intercourse, change in genital sensations, loss of sensation or numbness, and reduced ability to have orgasm.

Causes of female sexual dysfunction due to cancer

Sexual dysfunction can occur due to physical causes as well as the condition of your psyche after you have been treated for cancer. The way you feel about yourself and your body is also one of the determinants of sexual dysfunction.

  • If you have suffered from cancers that affect your sexual organs, such as cervix, uterus, ovaries, colon or vagina, it can lead to serious physical problem in having sex. The damage from the cancer itself may not be as severe as that from the treatment procedures. Half the survivors of breast and the aforesaid cancers are likely to have some sexual dysfunction.
  • Chemotherapy can cause damage of the ovaries and even result in temporary or permanent menopause in young women. The alkylating drugs used in chemotherapy treatment  can cause the most damage.
  • Hormone therapy can disrupt the normal flow of hormones needed for normal sexual functions.
  • Radiation therapy can lead to problems in the vagina, uterus or cervix, which deteriorates normal sexual dysfunction.
  • Side effects of medicines for treatment of depression, nausea, pain or anxiety can lead to sexual dysfunction.
  • Patients on their recovery path from cancer are often ridden with guilt or have a lot of anxiety that the previous sexual activity has caused their cancer. Some people feel that if they have sex, their partner would get it from them. To resolve these problems, these patients need to discuss their concerns with their health care provider.


If you want to resume your normal sex life after cancer treatment, you will need to put up these questions to your health care provider. As you need to discuss a lot more with your health care provider, ask for a longer appointment. Sexual dysfunction may not go away of its own. Your health care provider would be able to give you the right suggestions for using the right treatment options to enable you to enjoy sex again.  


As treatments do not work at times, your sexual dysfunction may continue for a while. This would be very frustrating but both the survivor and her partner need to go through this. You will need to limit yourself to cuddling and caressing, or find out other ways of having sexual pleasure.


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