Discussing experiences, feelings and concerns with your partner(s)—giving each other the chance to talk and listen—is an important part of maintaining or improving your quality of life. Your partner may have his or her own concerns, such as being afraid of hurting you during sex, feeling guilty or selfish for wanting to be intimate with you or not knowing how to talk about their feelings. You may also want to talk about seeking help from a professional, such as a couples counselor or sex therapist.
The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists can help you find a therapist or you can ask your doctor for a referral.
You may not be interested in sex. Until your treatment is completed, and you feel better, you and your partner may need to find new ways to be intimate.
If you do wish to continue having sex, ask your treatment team if it is safe to do so.
Ways to Prepare for Sex
- Take a warm shower or bath to help relax your body. You can invite your partner to join you, if you like.
- Take a nap before sex to help you feel less tired.
- If needed, take nausea or pain medication 30 minutes before sex.
- Set the mood. For example, light candles and play music.
- Use lubricants for comfort.
- Water-based and silicone-based lubricants are safe to use with condoms and dental dams. Silicone-based lubricants are a good option for anal sex, as they dry out less quickly than water-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants are also an option; however, they can make latex condoms and dental dams less effective.
- Start slowly with other forms of physical touch such as kissing, massaging, or touching.
- Remember that climax or orgasm is not required for sex to be enjoyable. Try not to put pressure on yourself or your partner. Seek to enjoy the moment.
- Tell your partner what feels good to you.
- If you and your partner are both comfortable, you can try using sexual enhancement aids, such as a vibrator.
“Consent” is an agreement to engage in sexual activity. Open and ongoing communication is an important part of safe and enjoyable sexual experiences. Tell your partner what you enjoy and what your boundaries are. The choice to have sex or engage in sexual play is always yours. Even if you were sexually active before your cancer diagnosis, only continue or resume having sex if you are physically and emotionally ready. Consent to one sexual activity is not consent to all sexual activities. Consent to sexual activities in the past is not consent in the present. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, even during sexual activity. Physical response, such as vaginal lubrication or penile erection, is not consent. Consent cannot be given under fear or intimidation. Consent cannot be given by someone who is underage, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, asleep or unconscious. If you have experienced sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673).
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s free fact sheet, Sexual Health and Intimacy.