What if the sex life of cancer patients differs from couples?

Love heals people.
loved one,
everyone, no matter who you love
-Karl Menninger, American psychiatrist

I believe that the most beautiful thing in a relationship is love. So, how does cancer treatment affect our love? Unfortunately, many patients think that when they are diagnosed with cancer, they cannot fall in love or have to give up their sex life.

In Korea, there is a social atmosphere that treats sex life very personally, and it is difficult to mention ‘sex life’ especially in the big problem of fighting cancer, which is life or death at stake.

Even if there is a problem, if someone asks about her sex life, she is embarrassed because she seems to be showing her hidden side, and she is reluctant to talk about it for fear that the doctor will think it strange. In addition, the reality is that there is not enough time and space to ask these questions because the treatment time is so tight.

However, if you listen to the stories of people who have actually suffered cancer, sexual desire may persist or increase even after cancer diagnosis. Failing to be honest about this situation with your real spouse or partner can affect your relationship.

They worry about whether they will be able to make love as they used to, and whether they will be able to have a normal sex life during and after treatment. Whether cancer is contagious or not, there are people who hesitate and avoid chemotherapy or radiation during cancer treatment because they may adversely affect or burden their partners. Cancer patients themselves lose confidence in their changed health status, and sometimes feel uncomfortable with their sex life due to physical or mental changes caused by treatment. However, like breathing, eating, and sleeping every day, sexual desire is a natural human desire.

The Cancer Education Center, which provides education and materials on ‘Cancer and Marital Sex,’ is a place where you can comfortably talk about your sex life, so you come across a variety of sexual concerns that you can’t talk about elsewhere.

Let’s listen to the stories of real cancer patients.

A young man in his twenties requested phone counseling about his sex life.

“I had chemotherapy for mediastinal cancer. It’s been about 6 months now, can I have sex with my girlfriend?”

I have a desire for sex, but I was worried that if I had sex, it would harm my health or harm my girlfriend. I wanted to ask at the time of treatment, but I was afraid that cancer patients would look at me strangely if I asked such a thing, so I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and asked over the phone.

Another male lung cancer patient in his 60s applied for counseling saying he wanted to know. He seemed to hesitate a few times as if it was difficult to speak. Then, carefully, he said that he was worried that it would be bad for cancer because it would be hard on the body and would be bad for the body if it was 3 months after surgery and chemotherapy was finished.

In some cases, parents may request counseling. A woman in her 50s quietly came to me and asked if I could agree to her husband, who is suffering from stomach cancer, and wants sex during chemotherapy. Moreover, since the wife had been using each room for quite a long time before the cancer diagnosis, it was said that she was somewhat embarrassed by the words of her husband.

According to the results of a study conducted by the Cancer Education Center, there was a big difference in the attitudes and difficulties in the sex life of cancer patients and their spouses. From 2013 to 2015, three university hospitals in Seoul and the Korea Blood Association surveyed 91 pairs of hematopoietic stem cell transplant (bone marrow transplant) patients and their spouses. The patients and their spouses each showed distinct differences in all areas, such as attitudes toward and difficulties in sexual life, and in particular, the importance of sexual life felt by the patient was higher than that of the spouse. It was.

What is particularly noteworthy is that there was no agreement between the couple regarding the importance of sexual life. When ‘0’ for no agreement at all and ‘1’ for perfect agreement, the degree of agreement was 0.17. This trend was more pronounced in male patients, with males (2.81) thinking that sex life was more important in life than females (2.07), and inconsistency between male patients and female spouses was higher.

Most of all, there was a deep misunderstanding about the other’s rejection. When asked which part was the most difficult, 15.4% of the patients and 22.0% of the spouses answered that it was difficult for them to be reluctant. When asked what is the main cause of sexual disturbance, 46.2% of the patients answered that the patient’s physical strength decreased, while 37.4% of the spouses answered that there is a difference of opinion. The biggest reason for this difference was ‘lack of communication’. When asked if they had ever talked about their sex life, 48.4% of patients and 23.1% of partners answered yes. In fact, the significant findings of this study were that the more important both patients and their spouses felt about their sex life, they were 5.5 times more likely to have a normal sex life.

In fact, just because patients are diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean their sex life is less important. Equally important, there is no need to be taboo on the sex life of cancer patients. Of course, if you are undergoing active treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy, you need a safe sex life because the risk of infection increases due to a decrease in the white blood cell count.

In addition, breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, etc., due to surgery, changes in appearance or sexual function occur, but you need to deal with it well. Pregnancy is possible during treatment, but there are many treatments that cause congenital anomalies, so it is necessary to use contraception. However, cancer is not an infectious disease that can be transmitted to others through sexual life, and sexual life does not affect the recurrence or metastasis of cancer.

In particular, as the research results show, what is necessary for a healthy sex life of cancer patients is communication with the other person. In fact, most patients and their spouses who come to the cancer education center for counseling are also concerned about their relationship, but they rarely communicate with each other, and in particular, there are many cases of misunderstandings regarding sex.

There are many different ways to express love. Warm eye contact, holding hands or stroking the back of the head, hugging, encouraging, and embracing each other’s generous hearts. The same goes for a healthy and satisfying sex life. Both the patient and the partner need to seek understanding by talking frequently about their own and each other’s condition and mood. The most fundamental solution to maintaining a normal sex life is mutual affection and love. The patient should try not to feel embarrassed by the physical and mental and sexual changes caused by the treatment, and the partner needs to understand the patient’s position through conversation and sometimes wait until the patient feels sexual desire.

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