Women, Cancer, and Sexuality
When a woman is diagnosed with cancer she may only be concerned with treatment and survival. Later she may realize cancer and its treatments can have lifelong effects, especially in the area of sex and sexuality. Sex and sexuality are important parts of everyday life. The difference between sex and sexuality is that sex is thought of as an activity. Sexuality is more about the way you feel about yourself, and is linked to intimacy or your need for caring, closeness, and touch.
There are many reasons cancer may affect sexuality in women
Women, Cancer, and Sexuality
- Body image changes after surgery
- Surgically losing parts of the body involved in sexuality
- Being thrust into menopause-chemically or surgically
- Vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse
- Nausea and or/vomiting
- Fatigue and stress
- Mouth sores
- Bladder infections and tenderness
- Neuropathy and lack of sensation
- Low libido
Some of these changes are effects of surgery, some are effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and some are the effects of having cancer which can take a physical toll as well as mental/emotional toll. Women have said they feel like damaged goods all my parts are gone who would want to be with me now. The mental/emotional aspect should be addressed with a counselor skilled in cancers effect on sexuality.
Naturopathic medicine can offer support through cancer surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, combating the side effects which interfere with sex and sexuality. There are botanical medicines, amino acids, anti-oxidants, homeopathic remedies and nutritional support and bio-identical hormones. Some examples include;
- Homeopathic remedies and herbs for nausea
- Amino acids and probiotics for diarrhea or constipation
- Herbal vaginal suppositories for vaginal dryness and libido
- Amino acids for mouth sores
- Herbs and homeopathics for hot flashes and night sweats
- Vitamins and herbs for neuropathy
- IV therapy for fatigue and cancer care
Be careful with over-the-counter supplements and trying to treat yourself as many natural treatments can interfere with chemotherapy and radiation, making it less effective. Even simple herbal medicines such as garlic, gingko, St Johns Wort, Echinacea and Soy can interact with radiation, chemotherapy and cancer medications. It is important you work with a naturopathic doctor skilled in cancer care.
Feelings about sexuality affect self-image, and relationships with others. Yet patients and doctors often do not talk about the effects of cancer treatment on a womans sex life or how she can address problems shes having. There is help if you are having sexual problems after cancer treatment. There are many natural treatment options available. Remember natural doesnt always mean it is safe, more is not necessarily better, dont be your own doctor, and focus on healing the constitution of your mind, body and spirit.
Article written by Dr. Marianne Marchese