Don't let sex be forbidden topic after cancerBy Lonnie Fynskov, R.N.
While you were growing up, how many of you were taught that sex was inappropriate for casual conversation? For some of us, the topic was not only absent from social conversation but also in our families.
Obviously, this has nothing to do with the importance of sex and intimacy in our lives but more to do with our cultural background and a discomfort related to openly talking about highly personal issues.
Unfortunately, that same discomfort may interfere with getting helpful information regarding changes in sexuality that may occur with various cancer treatments.
Several cancers or their treatments have the potential to impact sexual function and response. This may not be a concern for some, but if it is we want you to feel comfortable starting a conversation.
Physical or emotional changes such as grief related to the presence of surgical scars or removal of reproductive organs, the desire for sex, and the ability to reach climax or experiencing pain during intercourse are just some of the things that can create tension in relationships.
As healthcare providers, we know sexual concerns may be difficult to discuss. But frequently, there are suggestions that can help. A few people have told me that with a new cancer diagnosis, so much information is given that sex didn't even surface. Others said it was the first thing they thought about but were too embarrassed to ask about.
Some say that during treatment, they were either so sick or tired that it wasn't a concern. However, once they were feeling stronger any sexual problems were a significant concern for them and their partner. But even then, they were hesitant to mention it to their healthcare provider.
Our need for intimacy and closeness doesn't stop with a cancer diagnosis. Getting the information and support you need to live life to its fullest is important. Everyone's situation is different regarding when and how you like to receive information.
Some may want to have open conversations that are initiated by either person when a troubling situation occurs. Others are more private and prefer brochures or visiting a reputable website that provides reliable information.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about what would work best for you when you want information about your sexual concerns? If you prefer conversations with a healthcare provider on the subject of sex and intimacy, when is the best time for this to happen? Is it when making decisions regarding treatment options, during treatment or perhaps at follow-up appointments? Thank you for providing input on this important topic.