Sex Educator's Guide for Women: Sex During & After Cancer Treatment

Pleasure and sex amid cancer are possible. Learn from a Sex Educator how women can have sex during and after cancer treatment.

This post was last updated on May 21, 2020 at 2:42 p.m.

When you receive a cancer diagnosis, sex may be the furthest thing from your mind. You’re in survival mode, grieving the loss of your former self, and figuring out what next.

At some point, you start craving a return to normalcy in all parts of your life, including sex. Although this may be hard to believe, sex and pleasure are still very important during and after cancer treatment. 

When and how long it takes for sex to come back into the picture is variable. Factors include:

  • what was your sex life before your diagnosis

  • the treatments you receive

  • how your partner(s) handle the news

Newer treatments mean that you have time to figure things, like sex, out. That's because cancer survivors live longer & richer lives than ever before.

Many health care providers do NOT discuss sex and common sexual issues with their patients. Don't be ashamed or shy about asking questions. If your healthcare team can not help you, find someone who can!

Sexual Issues

There are many common sexual issues experienced by female cancer patients during and after cancer treatment.

Sexual Dysfunction

40-100% of cancer survivors report some of sexual dysfunction.

Sexual dysfunction includes:

  • decreased libido

  • lack of desire

  • pain with sex

It’s ok if you don’t want to think about sex during your treatment or early survivorship. It's normal to experience painful sex during or after cancer.

Tip: There’s no timeline to get back to sex. Get back to sex when you are ready.

Sexual Side Effects

During and after cancer treatment, you can experience some sexual side effects. 

You can divide these effects into three types:

1. Sexual

Sexual side effects directly impact your sexual & reproductive organs (e.g. uterus, vulva, breast) and the hormonal systems that rule them (e.g ovaries, pituitary gland, etc).

Impacting your sexual and reproductive system can lead to changes in your:

  • natural lubrication

  • nipple sensation

  • libido

  • pain during sex

A common issue woman with cancer and female cancer survivors face is painful sex. One cause of painful sex is lack of proper personal lubrication. Lack of lubrication can be the result of many things:

  • dehydration
  • side effects of medication
  • infections and inflammation
  • trauma or irritation to the vulva
  • lack of foreplay

2. Non-sexual physical

Non-sexual physical side effects don’t impact your sexual & reproductive organs but still impact sex directly. These non-sexual physical side effects include:

  • acne swelling in your extremities (lymphedema)

  • nerve damage & pain

  • fatigue

  • weight changes

  • other physical changes

3. Psychosocial & emotional

Psychosocial and emotional side effects don’t impact sex but do impact the context in which sex happens. These side effects include:

  • body image

  • self-esteem

  • ability & willingness to be vulnerable

  • ability & willingness to connect

  • stress levels

You may feel betrayed by your body. Or, if you had surgery, you may feel that your body is no longer yours. You may feel shame from physical side effects and not want your partner to see your body.

All this is normal. And all this is something you can work through.

Treating Sexual Side Effects

You can treat your sexual side effects.

There are both medical interventions and non-medical options. These vary based on your specific combination of side effects, but here are some examples. No option is right for everyone and you may need to explore more than one option.

Treat sexual side effects with:

  • vaginal moisturizers and/or lubricant

  • estrogen replacement

  • changing how you have sex & the types of sex you have

  • dilators

  • pelvic floor physical therapy

  • pelvic floor trainers

  • breast implants

Treat other physical side effects with available therapies like:

  • compression sleeves for lymphedema

  • wigs for hair loss (alopecia)

  • anti-acne medication

  • medicated lotion for dry skin

  • physical & occupational therapy

Treat psychosocial and emotional side effects with help from a:

  • therapist

  • sex therapist

  • somatic bodyworker/sacred intimate/somatic experiencing practitioner

Please note: Any professional that you choose, should have experience working with cancer survivors. 

You may also enjoy complimentary & alternative (CAM) therapies such as:

  • yoga

  • massage

  • acupuncture

  • tai chi

  • energetic healing (eg Reiki)

  • herbs

  • essential oils

  • meditation

Be sure to discuss any of these treatments with your cancer treatment team. There might be issues between your treatment and some of these treatments.


You’ll also likely find that focusing on creating the right context for sex helps you to enjoy it.

  1. Figure out which sex positions work for you now, both physically & mentally.

  2. Time sex when you’re in the least amount of pain and/or time your medications so you can enjoy the greatest amount of sex.

  3. Remember self-care, from the simple (showering, eating, etc.) to the more decadent (spa day).

Lastly, expand your definition of “sex” to include ALL sexually pleasurable activities. This includes but is not limited to:

  • mutual masturbation with or without luxury sex toys

  • oral sex

  • massages

  • kissing make-out sessions

It isn’t easy when society sends a strong message that intercourse is the be-all-end-all. And it doesn’t change that you may miss your old sex life. Yet, when you shift your definition, it allows for so much more pleasure and intimacy.


Best Sex Toys for Women with Cancer:

Silicone Dilator Set



SEE IT IN OUR ONLINE STORE (Free & discreet shipping)

If you experience vaginal atrophy from receiving radiation, you should try a dilator. This Silicone Dilators Set helps you strengthen and develop your vaginal muscles. Dilation therapy involves the careful, comfortable and slow insertion of vaginal dilators into the vagina.

FeMani Vibrating Dilator Set




(Free & discreet shipping)

If you are ready to add vibration, then you are ready for the FeMani Vibrating Dilator Set. Each set comes with a motor with 2 smooth wands in different sizes. The graduated sizes allow a natural and effective transition and progression. FeMani's handle provides control and leverage. Developed by a female physician, these vaginal dilators have a smooth surface that is gentle on sensitive areas.

Elvie Kegel Exerciser




(Free & discreet shipping)

Strong pelvic floor muscles are important for control of urination and bowel movements, normal sexual function, and stability of your abdomen and spine. The Elvie Kegel Exerciser is a pelvic floor trainer that helps you have a healthy and toned pelvic floor for better orgasms and sex.

We-Vibe Bloom




(Free & discreet shipping)

If you want a pelvic floor trainer with vibration that also stimulates your G-spot, then you should try the We-Vibe Bloom. These Kegel balls are easy to insert and very simple to use. With three interchangeable weights, Bloom can be adjusted as you get stronger.


Due to the changes in your body, the medications you are on, or the treatments that you have experienced, your body is probably producing less natural lubricant.

Personal lubricant is essential if you experience painful sex or if you want to feel more sensation. And, it makes sex and masturbation better. A good quality lubricant is important because you don't want to be putting chemicals into your body.

Good Clean Love Restore



SEE IT IN OUR ONLINE STORE (Discreet shipping)

Good Clean Love Restore is designed as a daily vaginal moisturizer that’s made with natural ingredients instead of chemicals that you normally find in most lubricants. 



Starts at $19.99

SEE IT IN OUR ONLINE STORE (Discreet shipping)

Another good choice is Migliori, a silicone lubricant that is not sticky or tacky and has vitamin E, which makes it silky smooth. Plus, the glass bottle and convenient pump top does not look like your typical lubricant.

Sexual Stimulants

Sexual stimulants also help with lubrication. These sexual aides bring more blood flow to the clitoris, which kick-starts your natural lubrication. Plus, it also helps you get aroused much faster too!


ON Arousal Clitoral Oil and Gel

PRICE TAG: $29.95


(Discreet shipping)

Our favorite is ON Arousal Oil because it’s all natural — made with cinnamon oil, which doesn’t burn but tingles — and comes in 3 different varieties: Lite, Original and Ultra as well as the ON Arousal Gel.

ON Libido Female Stimulant




(Discreet shipping)

ON Libido enhances your libido through a daily application of a scented lavender cream to the skin and increases your desire for sex and intimacy. For those who suffer from a loss of libido, this sexual stimulant helps the body produce a natural amount of testosterone, which is known to increase sex drive.

Sex During & After Cancer Treatment

Having a pleasurable sex life as a cancer patient or recovering from cancer is possible. You just need to be in the right mind space and have the right tools. My Secret Luxury is your guide on your road to finding your pleasure again.

If you want more information and would like to talk to a sexual health educator about this or any other issue, please contact Kait, My Secret Luxury's Director of Education and Training.