Lucy O'Donnell

Lucy O'Donnell

Cancer Is a Teacher

Is It True That Libido Is Destroyed Post-Cancer?

Don't always blame cancer on your lack of sexual desire.

Posted Jul 30, 2019

So many people ask me about sex and cancer, so here goes.  

If you are in your initial stages of cancer treatment, undergoing radical chemotherapy, and surgical procedures, you might well experience a decrease in libido. That would be very normal. But as we know, this full-on treatment doesn’t last for too long and as you start to level out, regain your strength, libido can come back quite soon.

In a loving relationship with a stable partner, sex and all the caring and intimacy that goes with it can be very helpful for people who are recovering from or living with cancer.

Sexuality includes our need for closeness, intimacy, caring, and pleasure, as well as our sex drive, sexual identity, and preferences. And it’s important to note that sex and all of the loving and caring that goes with it can be life-affirming.

So many times I hear that couples, where one of them has experienced cancer, have stopped having sex, but is this really due to the big C? Rarely. It is a great excuse to be in denial of what is really going on in a relationship.

With couples who have stopped having sex after cancer treatment, if you look more closely, it might well be clear that the relationship was not a satisfactory one in the first place, or had become an unsatisfactory one, as sometimes relationships do.   

Imagine what it is like for a new mother — they are medically advised not to have sex for six to eight weeks after giving birth, but that does not mean their sex life is ruined — its just gone on "go slow" for a few weeks and an intelligent partner would totally get this and their sex life picks up again in time.

So my message is: It's very easy to blame the big C on a depleted sex life, but more often than not, it is not the root cause. Don’t jump to conclusions about your sex life if it has petered out during your cancer experience — you may actually need to examine your relationship. Are you prepared to make adjustments in your relationship? Are you prepared to be flexible in the time of day that you have sex? Are you prepared to see a counselor jointly? How far are you actually prepared to go to keep your relationship together? Are you open and honest with each other? Are you able to discuss your feelings? If there is no communication, then the picture will not look good, even if you are Aphrodite.