Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thyroic Cancer and Sexuality

Some of the possible effects of cancer and its treatment on sexuality are described here. Please remember and keep in mind  that it is very difficult to accurately predict how cancer and its treatment will affect you -individually-, and for some thyroid cancer patients and survivors who have difficulty metabolizing synthetic hormones  this can become a life long challenge you may need help with as you adapt to hormonal changes after the loss of a major endocrine gland.

Some people may need to adapt to changes and develop new ways of giving and receiving sexual pleasure. If you have a committed, loving partner, cancer does not mean your sexuality will be destroyed. With support and clear communication, you will often still be able to enjoy a fulfilling sex life no matter what type of cancer you have or the treatment you receive.

There are four main ways that cancer or its treatment can affect your sexuality:

(1) physical ability to give and receive sexual pleasure

(2) thoughts and feeling about your body (body image)

(3) feelings, such as fear, sadness, anger and joy roles and relationships.

The links between these four areas are important. If there is a problem in one of them, it may have an impact on another. When someone becomes ill, it can affect their ability to feel good about themselves sexually, or their physical ability to give and receive sexual pleasure. If this has happened to you or your partner, it might be helpful to understand that some changes will only be temporary.

Even if the changes are long lasting, or permanent, you can find ways to adapt sexual techniques that are no longer possible or discover new ones. You can learn to feel good about yourself sexually despite the cancer and the possible side effects of the treatments.
  • Tiredness - Many people with cancer say that they feel washed out and almost completely without energy for many months or even years. This may be to do with the cancer itself, or sometimes the treatment. This tiredness can make people lose interest in sex during and after cancer treatment.
  • Mismatch in sex drive - In many relationships one partner may be more interested in sex than the other. Cancer can exaggerate this. If one partner has a change in their level of desire, this can be upsetting when there is the added complication of cancer.
How will cancer affect my sex life?

Sexual feelings and attitudes vary greatly among people under any circumstances. This is also true during illness. Some people have little or no change in their sexual desire and energy level because of cancer. Others find that their interest declines because of the physical and emotional stresses of having cancer and getting treatment. Stress may include concerns about changes in appearance; worry about health, family, or money; or the results of treatment side effects, including fatigue and hormone changes.

Some people find that they feel even closer to their partners during this time and have an increased desire for sex. Even though pregnancy may be possible during cancer treatment, it may not be wise because some treatments could cause birth defects. Many doctors tell men and women to use birth control throughout their treatment.

If your sexual desire and energy levels change during treatment, keep in mind that this is normal and can happen for a number of reasons. Some common reasons are stress, fatigue, and other treatment side effects. Body image issues may also play a part. If you have had surgery for a cancer in the pelvic or stomach areas, it may make intercourse difficult or painful for a time. Some women have vaginal dryness, and some men have problems with erections (erectile dysfunction) as a side effect of some treatments. If possible, discuss these concerns with your cancer care team and your partner.

If you were comfortable with and enjoyed a healthy sex life before starting treatment, chances are you will still find pleasure in physical intimacy during your treatment. You may find that intimacy takes on a new meaning and you relate differently. Hugging, touching, holding, and cuddling may become more important, while sexual intercourse may become less important.

Good communication is the key to staying sexually active or resuming your sex life with your partner. Your partner's concerns or fears are normal, and they can have an impact on your sex life. Some partners may worry that physical closeness will hurt the person who has cancer. Others may fear that they might "catch" the cancer or be affected by the radiation or chemotherapy. Catching cancer is not possible, but talking about issues like these can clear up many problems. It will also help you find out what different things you can do to make the sexual contact something you can both enjoy.

A healthy sex life can be hard to maintain when there are so many physical and emotional factors involved. Get as much information from your doctor and other resources as you can so that you understand what you can and cannot do before, during, and after treatment. For more information, you may order the free booklets Sexuality for the Man With Cancer and Sexuality for the Woman With Cancer by calling your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.

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