If you have vaginal cancer, you might be wondering how your condition and treatment will impact your sex life. This is understandable. You may need some time to come to terms with what is happening to your body, and if you are frightened, worried or depressed, you may not feel up to having sex.
Additionally, some vaginal cancer treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy, can affect how you have – and what you feel – during sex. Our supportive care specialists at Moffitt Cancer Center can help you prepare for and manage any issues that may arise.
Sexual side effects of vaginal cancer treatment
Depending on the type of vaginal cancer treatment you have, you may experience side effects, such as:
- Early menopause – If your uterus and both ovaries are removed, your menstrual periods will immediately and permanently stop. Your treatment team may recommend hormone replacement therapy or other options to help you cope with the resulting symptoms, which may include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disruption and irritability.
- Vaginal narrowing (fibrosis) – Radiation therapy for vaginal cancer or scar tissue formation after surgery can cause your vagina to become narrower. To help counteract this effect, your physician may suggest that you use special vaginal dilators.
- Vaginal dryness – Your physician may prescribe a cream or gel to help lubricate your vagina and reduce painful friction during intercourse.
- Changes in sensation – If you undergo a vaginal reconstruction with a skin graft taken from your thighs, you may experience an unusual sensation in your inner legs during sexual intercourse. While this can take some getting used to, some women ultimately find it to be unobjectionable and even pleasurable.
- Loss of sexual desire – Vaginal cancer treatment may decrease your sex drive, and keeping your lack of interest a secret can make your partner feel confused and rejected. By communicating openly and honestly, you can strengthen your relationship and perhaps come up with new ways to maintain your intimacy, even if you are not having intercourse.
If you have further questions about the sexual side effects of vaginal cancer treatment, you can request an appointment with a gynecologic oncologist at Moffitt by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.