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SEXUALITY AND CANCER
( By JASCAP )

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Common questions

Some common questions about sexuality and cancer

Can sexual activity actually cause cancer?
Can I catch cancer from my partner?
Could sex make my cancer worse?
Can chemotherapy drugs be present in sexual fluids?
When can I become pregnant?
How soon can I have sex after treatment?
Are there any good positions for making love after cancer?
How can I overcome problems of tiredness?
I am embarrassed about my scars but still want to make love
Can sexual activity actually cause cancer?
Not in the strictest sense of the word. In practical terms, the development of some types of cancer may be influenced by a virus that is passed from one person to another during sex.

Cancers of the cervix, vulva, rectum and penis are more likely to occur in people who have the human papilloma virus (HPV). However, most people who have HPV do not develop cancer as a result.

There are many factors other than the virus at work, such as:

whether or not we smoke
our age
our diet
the genes we inherit from our parents
our general health.

These factors can influence whether or not an infection with a virus will affect the development of a cancer. However, some people still see sex as bad or sinful and at some unconscious level worry that their cancer may be punishment for some past sexual disease or 'sin'. If you feel worried or guilty about your cancer having been given to you as a punishment, then it can be helpful to talk this through with a religious or spiritual advisor, or a counsellor.

Can I catch cancer from my partner?

No. If your partner has a cancer, you canít catch it from any sexual activity. You canít catch cancer by having sex.

Could sex make my cancer worse?
No. In fact, sex and all the love and caring that goes with it can be helpful to people who have cancer. Many people feel depressed, unlovable, guilty or afraid when they have cancer or are having treatment. Their partnerís affection and acceptance can make a big difference. Sex does not make the cancer more likely to come back or spread.

Can chemotherapy drugs be present in sexual fluids?
It is not known whether chemotherapy drugs can be present in semen or vaginal fluids. It is safest either to avoid sex or to be sure to wear a condom, or use some other form of barrier contraception, during and for up to a month after chemotherapy. Using barrier contraception removes any potential risks and avoids the stinging sensation that some partners report.

When can I become pregnant?
For women who can still have children it is essential to avoid becoming pregnant during treatment with chemotherapy. This reduces the risk of damage to the baby should any of the chemicals be absorbed. Many doctors recommend not becoming pregnant or fathering a child for up to a year after treatment, as this is the time when the cancer is most likely to come back.

How soon can I have sex after treatment?
Vaginal intercourse is probably best avoided very soon after pelvic surgery in women. The time to get back to sex will vary greatly according to the sort of operation you had and how quickly you are healing. Some types of cancer (of the cervix or bladder, for example) cause bleeding from the vagina or in the urine. If this sort of bleeding is made worse by intercourse then it is sensible to stop until treatment has stopped the bleeding.

Are there any good positions for making love after cancer?
This will depend a lot on which part of the body is affected by the disease. If it is the pelvic area then it will take some gentle and patient experimenting to discover which lovemaking positions now suit you both. This can also be true after a mastectomy when some people say that they donít want their loverís weight resting on them.

Making love side by side, or swapping whoís on top, may be better. Most couples find that with loving communication they can sort out what suits them best. The things you find most enjoyable will change with time, so be prepared to change what you do.

How can I overcome problems of tiredness?
Be flexible about the time of day you make love. Experiment with less demanding positions for lovemaking. You can agree with your partner that lovemaking need not always mean a long session.

I am embarrassed about my scars but still want to make love
It is a good idea to first talk things through with your partner. Most people find their lovers are much less concerned by their scars than they imagine, and once the subject has been discussed openly they can feel more relaxed about the changes in their bodies.

Why not try making love in the semi-darkness to avoid being seen so clearly? Some women also say that they find having sex with their bra on after a mastectomy makes them feel sexier. This both holds the false breast (prosthesis), if there is one, and helps to hide scars. Crop tops or an all-in-one with gusset poppers can be comfortable without you having to be completely hidden. Men may also find it helpful to wear clothing during sex if they are bothered by their scars.

 
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