Talking About the Sexual Side Effects of Cancer

Heal, Heal Spring 2021,

Many survivors who have sexual side effects after treatment feel too uncomfortable to share this information with their doctor, and some doctors may not know how to address it with their patients.

Spring is upon us. During this season of renewal, rebirth and reawakening, be sure you’re listening to your body and asking your doctor about any side effects or symptoms that you might be experiencing after cancer, no matter how off-limits you might feel they are.

A study from the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that 87% of survivors of breast, pelvic, endometrial, prostate, bladder and rectal cancers experience challenges in their sexual desire and function after treatment.

So if sexual side effects are so common, then why aren’t they being talked about more? Many survivors who have sexual side effects after treatment feel too uncomfortable to share this information with their doctor, and some doctors may not know how to address it with their patients.

In this issue of Heal®, we explore this topic. We hear from two survivors — one man, one woman — about how cancer and treatment affected their sex lives. We also hear from doctors about why survivors might experience these side effects and how to treat them.

In addition, we hear from a survivor who decided to document her journey with stage 4 lymphoma on the social media platform TikTok, which gained her nearly 200,000 supporters and helped her find purpose.

Also in this issue: A penile cancer survivor discusses “scanxiety” — the fear that occurs in the weeks and days leading up to your next scan because you’re worried about cancer coming back. This very real fear can make you irritable and “irrational” (as he puts it) and make it very easy to lash out at loved ones.

Finally, celebrate the spring season with some new recipes, including a kale salad and a chickpea curry. No need to wonder, “What should I eat for dinner?” or “What can I make that’s healthy?” because these recipes are perfect options. And remember to save room for dessert! (Hint: It involves chocolate.)

As always, we hope you find this issue both informative and helpful. And who knows, it just might inspire you to share your story with us.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.