Surviving cervical cancer is obviously a great thing, but it probably goes without saying that cancer survival brings changes. Some are highly likely to be physical, but they can also be emotional and mental. You might develop a different outlook on life, and it is common to experience fears about the future. It is a lot to process and adjustments will take time.
One of the most common concerns cervical cancer survivors have is how their sex lives will be affected. The reality is that there will be some effects on your sex life, but they do not need to be insurmountable. In this article we’ll take a look at what you can expect to feel physically and emotionally (with regards to your sex life) after cervical cancer , and what you can do to improve things.
Common emotions during and after cervical cancer
A cervical cancer diagnosis or treatment is likely to bring up concerns about your sexuality. This is understandable given that some of the cancer treatments are invasive and cause physical changes. Two examples would be radiotherapy and hysterectomies, which both cause pretty big changes to the pelvic region. Naturally this results in sexual changes.
It is normal for anxiety to set in when women anticipate some of the common effects of cervical cancer treatments. They normally worry that sex will be painful, cause bleeding, or that sensation will be different. Sometimes they are afraid that sex will somehow make the cancer come back.
They may worry that their partners won’t find them attractive any more, or even worry that people will think they have been promiscuous. Even the fears themselves can adversely affect a woman’s sex life as they stop her from being able to relax.
Some women do become infertile after cervical cancer treatment. This may be very disappointing or stressful if she was hoping to have children, and is yet another thing that can limit sexual enjoyment. Some women may feel that they are somehow less feminine or appealing because of this, but this largely depends on complex underlying attitudes anyway. In such instances, it is wise to see a counsellor.
Physical changes caused by cervical cancer
Unfortunately there can be some challenging physical side effects to cervical cancer treatments. For example, radiotherapy may cause vaginal dryness or narrowing of the vagina (vaginal stenosis). However, it is actually quite common for women’s sex lives to return to normal after radiotherapy. This can be encouraged further through products you can use at home (keep reading for more details on that).
Radical (or Wertheim’s) hysterectomy is another common treatment that can cause vaginal stenosis, but although this may be somewhat noticeable during sex initially, it is often the case that things go back to normal quite soon.
Sometimes radiotherapy can cause women to start the menopause early, which obviously brings on hormonal changes that might affect her sex life. It is also possible to experience vaginal atrophy in menopause.
Resuming your sex life after treatment
You may wish to resume your sex life soon after cervical cancer treatment, as many women do. This can encourage flexibility and normal responses in the vagina. However, some women prefer to wait around six months (sometimes more) to be on the safe side. Since treatment can affect your libido to some degree initially, this may happen anyway. The good news is that it really is possible to have great sex after cervical cancer – it just takes a little awareness and effort.
One thing that really helps is using vaginal dilators, whether you have resumed your sex life fully or not. They are a great tool for returning flexibility and assisting the birth canal in returning to its previous dimensions. They are commonly prescribed during sexual therapy and used in pelvic floor physical therapy.
Dilators are easy to use at home and can make all the difference to your sex life over time. You may be interested in what we have written about using vaginal dilators after cervical cancer. Here at VuvaGirl we wish you all the best with your recovery and hope that you find our site useful. We are always ready to help however we can, so take a look around and let us know if you have any questions!