Bet you never thought cancer
could do THIS to you…
May 30th, 2012 by Holly Cornish
Anyone suffering with cancer knows all too well about the sickening effects of the disease as well as the side effects of conventional treatments like chemotherapy.
Extreme fatigue may be the easiest of these to manage. There’s also the embarrassing hair loss… nausea and vomiting… and maybe excruciating pain…
As if that weren’t bad enough—cancer can put the squeeze on your sex life, too! You don’t often hear about this, so keep reading! There are a few things you can do…
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Let’s start by acknowledging that your interest in sex and even your sexual response will vary during different stages of your life. Men and women may both have less interest in sex as they age, and men over 40 may experience trouble with erections.
By the same token, the American Cancer Society (ACS) confirmed that it’s normal for cancer patients to lose interest in sex at times.
Although a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to spell the E-N-D of your sex life, you should be aware of how the disease and treatments could affect you or someone you love.
Cancer patients have often complained…
“I’m just not in the mood!”
Let’s face it—most of the time a cancer patient’s first concern is just surviving the disease. The sense of fear and danger that accompany a cancer diagnosis can understandably throw cold water on normal ‘fires of desire.’ Stress can reduce the sex drive of healthy people, and cancer patients experience stress with a capital “S.”
Toss feelings of anxiety and depression in the mix and it’s clear to see how an otherwise healthy sex life might take a nosedive!
In some cases, people even become fearful that sexual activity could cause a relapse or some other harm. But gynecologist Dr. Erik Fangel Poulson said unless the cancer involves the genitals, there is no reason why a cancer patient should refrain from having sex.
To help allay anxiety and fear, patients should be sure to discuss the feasibility of sex with a doctor or other medical professional.
Another thing men with cancer often report is…
“I can’t get my ‘soldier’ to stand at attention!”
For men who have problems getting or keeping an erection, the medical term these days is erectile dysfunction. Back in the day, it was called “impotence” but that’s now seen as too harsh, demeaning — and not very scientific.
Erectile dysfunction or ED becomes more common as a man ages, and more common still if he has diabetes or blood vessel problems, such as high blood pressure.
But cancer treatments can also damage delicate pelvic nerves and blood vessels. It can also upset a man’s hormonal balance—all of which can affect sexual performance.
What’s more, feelings of anxiety related to ability to perform can affect arousal and ability to maintain an erection.
The good news is normal sexual activity is usually not a problem after cancer treatments are finished. And in extreme cases, there are medicines and even surgical options (aaargh!) that can restore erectile function.
One sure enemy of healthy sexual activity occurs when people say…
“It just HURTS down there!”
Folks who have had surgery for cancer in the pelvic or stomach areas may find it hard or even painful to have sex for some time.
Some women experience vaginal dryness that can make sexual activity uncomfortable. And having a mastectomy has been linked to loss of sexual interest, too.
Men undergoing cancer treatment may feel pain in their genitals during sex. And if the prostate gland or urethra is irritated as a result of cancer therapy, ejaculation may feel painful.
If cancer surgery involves the abdomen and pelvis, scar tissue can make orgasms a less than pleasurable experience.
And some cancer treatments—such as chemotherapy and radiation—can cause pain and numbness in various body parts. Unfortunately, some prescription pain pills can also cause ED!
Here’s another thing to keep in mind if you are having chemo treatments and are sexually active: Chemotherapy drugs can damage semen. If a man undergoing chemo happened to impregnate his partner—it could cause birth defects in the unborn baby.
Keep in mind that all the aforementioned are possibilities—not necessarily probabilities. It IS possible to maintain healthy sexual activity while undergoing cancer treatment.
You CAN keep the home fires burning!
It’s natural to be worried and anxious when battling cancer. But you’ll only increase your anxiety if you don’t talk about your concerns with your partner.
Sexual intimacy is a natural part of the human experience. And it’s more than just the physical act of intercourse.
Sexuality also involves your need to feel loved, cared for, and close to another person. This becomes even MORE important when a person is diagnosed with cancer.
First and foremost, it’s vital to keep the lines of communication open with your partner. The ACS recommends that you make sure the person knows if you’re feeling tired… weak… or if some part of your body feels tender and sore.
Be sure to let them know you want to be touched. And let them know where it hurts, and where it doesn’t.
And remember, you can experience pleasurable touching whether or not you have sex. Very few cancer treatments damage the nerves and muscles involved in feeling pleasure.
Although cancer and many of its conventional treatments can bring changes to some aspects of your sexuality—it doesn’t mean you’ll be consigned to a life of celibacy and unfulfilled longing.
Regardless of the type of cancer or treatment you’re experiencing, take comfort in knowing that an active, healthy sex life IS possible.
And this is especially true if you keep talking to your doctor and your partner—and keep touching one another!
Lee Euler Publisher