The Impact of Cancer and Its Therapies on Body Image and Sexuality

  • Susan V. Carr


Sexuality is inherent in everyone. It is made up of sexual identity, sexual orientation, sexual attitudes, all of which lead to an individuals sexual behavior.

Cancer, its diagnosis, treatments, and life implications have a massive impact on an individuals sexuality, mostly negative. Core sexual identity and orientation don’t change, but longstanding unexplored elements of one’s sexuality may be allowed expression when faced with a possible life-shortening disease.

More than 50 % of people with all cancers will suffer a sexual problem at some stage in their lives. With this prevalence it would be expected that professionals would be expert in diagnosing and treating these conditions, however the converse is true. Only the minority of patients feel they have had adequate information about sexual problems throughout their cancer journey, and have had insufficient information and opportunity to discuss these issues. Clinical staffs are good at treating organic sexual problems, but find themselves inadequately trained to deal with the emotional aspects.

Different cancer therapies can have better sexual outcomes than others, and patients wish an opportunity to be offered these choices. Cancer and its treatments can have major impact on feelings of well-being and self-esteem, leading to body image problems and sexual difficulties.

If patients have a partner they should be included in discussions if the patient wishes, but intimate issues should be in private, not in front of the whole family.

Many patients have same sex partners, and may find it difficult to disclose, especially to a non-empathetic clinician.

There are many treatments for sexual problems, and if a nonjudgmental, empathetic multidisciplinary approach is taken, then outcomes will be better for the patient.


Body Image Sexual Orientation Erectile Dysfunction Gender Identity Sexual Minority 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Royal Womens HospitalParkvilleAustralia

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