Sexuality and Fertility for Cancer Survivors
When diagnosed with cancer, concerns surrounding sexuality and fertility are often not the first to surface. However, being aware of how cancer impacts both your sexuality and fertility throughout your survivorship journey is important to maintaining a high quality of life.
Cancer treatments may affect various biological systems required for a healthy sexual response. The effects will likely be different for both men and women. The most common sexual problems after cancer treatment include erectile dysfunction (ED) in men, pain with intercourse in women, and loss of sexual desire in both men and women. Roughly 40% of cancer survivors reported sexual functioning as a physical concern in a 2010 report from LIVESTRONG. Questions regarding your sex life are important and should be discussed with your healthcare professional(s).
Ideally, discussions regarding fertility preservation should be had with your provider early on before cancer treatment begins. Understanding how cancer treatment may affect your fertility could improve your chances of having children once you’ve completed active treatment. A survey of 1702 young women with early stage breast cancer found that although 72% of women reported discussing fertility concerns with their doctors, patients were often the first to mention fertility. Further, only 51% of women felt their concerns were effectively addressed by their provider. These statistics emphasize the importance of being your own best advocate throughout your survivorship journey.