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Sexual healing Sex advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly, a US-based psychotherapist specialising in sexual disorders. Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online and in print. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.


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Cancer treatment can take a toll on sexual health, but multiple therapies can help ease these undiscussed side effects. To get help, speak up.

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Before we say a word about sex, I find myself acknowledging the reality that we humans can be both grateful and distressed, both appreciative of and frustrated by the profound side effects of treatment, including those that affect sexuality. Although patients are regularly asked about other side effects, such as nausea or pain, most are never queried about issues such as lack of desire, changes in sexual function or concerns about body image.

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Yet, we know that the majority of cancer patients and survivors face some kind of bothersome changes in sexual health, either short- or longer-term. Although these symptoms can be frustrating, a variety of treatment strategies can address them, with a range of effectiveness.

Speaking out: seeking sexual healing

Common problems for men include not only erectile dysfunction but also changes in arousal and lack of desire. For both men and women, it is not uncommon to have ificant concerns related to body image, especially in the context of various body-altering treatments. What can we do about this? First, everyone has a right to get the support and information needed to manage the sexual side effects of treatment.

Looking for sexual healing?

In the sexual health program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, we take a comprehensive approach to assessing sexual problems and thinking about rehabilitation. This means that we look at the biological, psychological, relationship and even cultural factors that often work in tandem.

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We assume that sexual renewal often hinges on addressing multiple challenges, so we focus on helping individuals and couples put together an action plan that addresses issues in harmony. This might mean developing a plan to not only improve vaginal health by easing treatment-related menopausal symptoms but also helping a woman feel comfortable in her body, enhancing her pleasure and teaching her to expand both communication and sexual repertoire with her partner. In addition, it can be useful to involve partners directly in coaching or counseling.

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For example, partners may feel unsure of how to show affection in a way that feels welcome or comfortable but may not know how to broach this topic. Sexual health should be considered as seriously as any other aspect of quality of life, but if you have concerns about sexual health and no one is talking about it, advocate for yourself. Tell your oncologist, nurse, primary-care doctor or any health care team member you feel comfortable with that you have concerns about how treatment has affected your sexual function.

If your team is unsure of how to help, ask for a referral.

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The good news is that there are more resources than ever to support healthy sexuality after cancer. One innovative startup, Will2Love, provides an online platform for patients that includes interactive personalized counseling. When a cancer survivor experiences bothersome changes in sexual function, getting care and attention is important because these problems often do not self-resolve.

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However, we also know that when survivors get the help they need, sexual renewal is within reach and quality of life improves. About CURE.

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About Advertise Contact TargetedOnc. Speaking Out: Seeking Sexual Healing.

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February 13, Sharon Bober, PH. Common challenges for women often fall into three : Genital symptoms such as dryness, burning and irritation. Sexual symptoms such as lack of lubrication, discomfort or pain, and impaired sexual function.

Sexual healing

Urinary symptoms such as urgency, discomfort when urinating and recurrent urinary tract infections. Publications Sexual Health Winter Treating Cancer as Patients Age. Latest News. View More Latest News.

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As I write, there are ongoing studies by the National Institute of Mental Health and various health organizations trying to determine what the pandemic has done to our sexuality.


Anyone who has a few wrinkles or grey hairs can attest to it: body parts change as we age.