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Talking with your healthcare team about sex


If you don’t feel comfortable talking about sex with your healthcare providers, you are not alone. Many people feel the same way.

Your healthcare team is focused on treating the cancer, but they can also address quality of life issues, including sex. Many providers are sensitive to this issue and want to help you if you have concerns or issues.

If your providers have not given you information about sexual side effects and you want it, don’t be afraid to ask for advice or for a referral. While it’s understandable to feel shy or embarrassed, if you don’t discuss your sexual concerns, you may never get the help you want.

Here are some tips to start the conversation:

  • When you make your appointment, mention you would like a few extra minutes to ask questions.
  • Write down questions and symptoms before your appointment. This may help you overcome any shyness or embarrassment.
  • Be specific. For example, say, “I have pain during penetration. Will the problem get better? What can I do to get relief?”
  • Rehearse what you want to say before your appointment. Saying the words out loud, to a partner, a friend or in front of a mirror, can help.

If your providers are unsure how to help or seem uncomfortable discussing your sexual concerns, ask for a referral to a specialist in sexual health, cancer survivorship medicine or both. These professionals give specialized care to people with cancer who are coping with issues related to sex and intimacy.