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Talking about sex and your sexual needs

Our sex lives are usually private and not openly discussed with strangers. Because of this you may feel that talking about sex will be embarrassing and difficult, both for you and the health professionals you talk to. This doesn't have to be the case.

Sex is an important part of most people's lives, which brings pleasure, closeness and helps us define who we are. So, even if you think it will be embarrassing or difficult, it's important to try and talk about any sexual problems the cancer or its treatment are causing. There are things that can help with most problems; but if you keep them to yourself, you may never find out about them!

It can be difficult to find the right words to use and this can put people off starting the conversation. Often, when talking about sexual areas of our body people use slang words and unclear expressions. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. If you aren't sure of the right words to describe sexual organs or sexual activity, you may find it helpful to note the words used in this booklet. You could also speak to your doctor or nurse.

Embarrassment can make us feel awkward and stop us saying what we want to. One way to reduce the embarrassment may be to write down all your questions in advance and then discuss them. You could show the list to someone who may be able to give you answers.


It can often be difficult to bring up the subject of sexuality in an appointment with your doctor, but most doctors are used to dealing with this subject and should be able to answer your questions. Your GP or hospital doctor can discuss these issues with you. Many hospitals also have specialist nurses who can answer any questions that you have.

Health professionals may not think to ask you whether your cancer or its treatment are affecting your sexuality. However, they would be happy to help or refer you for counselling or specialist treatment if they can't answer your questions.

It can sometimes be difficult to talk with your partner about sexual problems. You may feel embarrassed and not want to upset them. Your doctor or nurse, can give you support and help with discussing these difficult issues.

If you don't want to talk to anyone face to face, there are many confidential helplines with staff who can help you. Sometimes the anonymity of a helpline can help you to talk about issues that you may find difficult to discuss in person. Sexuality is an important part of many people’s lives and it can be very reassuring to discuss any problems that you have.