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Sex And Intimacy

How A Diagnosis And Treatment Can Affect Sexuality And Sex Drive

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A diagnosis and treatment of a serious health condition can affect sexuality and sex drive as follows: 

  • Loss of sex drive (“Libido”) due to depression or anxiety.  Both men and women who are diagnosed with cancer are 15 or 20 percent more likely to have depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety can affect mood, your connection with your self, your connection with your partner and children, and with your co-workers. (For information about how to cope, click on the appropriate link: DepressionAnxiety.)
  • Self consciousness: Both patients and their partners are likely to feel more self-conscious and less secure which can affect  a person's self-esteem and sex drive or prowess.
  • Fear of recurrence: Even though it is not logical, fear of recurrence can also impact sexual relationships because of a fear that sex could harm a surgical site if there was surgery.
  • Negative feeling about self: Because of physical changes such as hair loss, scars or loss of weight, patients can have a lowered feeling about themselves which can lower sex drive.
  • Role changes: If a bread winner is diagnosed and has to stay home or needs physical help, the partner has more to do, and may even have to return to work. The partner is also likely to change from being an equal to being a caregiver. These changes can cause conflict and can lower self esteem – which in turn lowers sex drive.
  • Reproductive concerns: Chemotherapy and other treatments can affect fertility. In turn, this can have an emotional impact as well as the physical result of no longer being able to have children.
  • Side effects: Side effects such as weight gain or loss, change in sense of smell and taste, dry mouth can have an effect on interest in sex and being sexual.

NOTE: Use of alcohol and smoking can cause erection difficulties and lack of interest in sex.

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