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HPV is a group of more than related viruses, some of which are spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Sexually transmitted HPV types fall into two groups, low risk and high risk. HPV infection is common: Nearly all sexually active people are infected with HPV within months to a few years of becoming sexually active. Around half of these infections are with a high-risk HPV type.
In fact, sexuality and intimacy have been shown to help people face cancer by helping them deal with feelings of distressand when going through treatment. But, the reality is that a person's sex organs, sexual desire sex drive or libidosexual function, well-being, and body image can be affected by having cancer and cancer treatment.
How a person shows sexuality can also be affected. Managing sexual problems is important, but might involve several different therapies, treatments, or devices, or a combination of them. Counseling can also be helpful. The information below describes ways to approach some of the more common sexual problems an adult female with cancer may experience. If you are a transgender person, please talk to your cancer care team about any needs that are not addressed here. Don't assume your doctor or nurse will ask about any concerns you have about sexuality. Remember, if they don't know about a problem you're having, they can't help you manage it.
Here are some ways you can start talks with your cancer care team about the problems you might be having. The best time to talk with your doctor or cancer team about possible side effects or long-term changes in your sex life is before treatment.
If this isn't possible, or you don't think about asking these kinds of questions before surgery or treatment, you can start to talk with them shortly after surgery or when treatment starts. But you can bring up the subject any time during and after treatment, too. When you're asking questions before surgery or treatment, here are some that can open the door to more questions and follow-up:.
Maybe you've already had surgery or started treatment, but didn't ask questions or get enough information beforehand. Maybe you've read some things on the internet or heard about someone else's experience with the same type of cancer you have.
Maybe you're able to think more clearly now than when you were first diagnosed and realize you have questions. Whatever the reason, if you wondering about something, ask! Here are some ways to start talking with your cancer care team:. Depending on the stage in life, type of cancer, and type of surgery and treatment needed, some women are at an increased risk for reduced hormones.
If the woman has already gone through the "change of life" menopausethe chance of having these symptoms might not be as high. But some women have surgery or treatment that brings on these hormone changes before they would naturally happen, and this is called premature menopause. This causes monthly hormone cycles to slow or stop, meaning monthly periods menstruation stop.
It's also known as amenorrhea.
How surgery can affect the sex life of females with cancer
It's important to know how surgery and treatment might affect your cycles and hormones. This is important for all women so they know the symptoms to expect. But it's especially important for younger women because of the possibility of pregnancy if cycles do not completely end or if hormones are not permanently affected. Ask your cancer care team about your specific situation. If you can expect to go through premature menopause, or have gone through it because of cancer surgery or treatment, you may be bothered by frequent hot flashes and other symptoms. But, some women may not be able to take hormones because of the type of cancer they have.
Sometimes these hormones are not recommended because they can promote certain types of cancer growth in female organs. They can cause other health problems, too. If you and your provider decide that hormone therapy is the best treatment for you, be sure you understand the correct dose to use, when to use it, and when to expect it to take effect. Sometimes doses need to be changed to get the best effect.
Vaginal fluids and moisture are important for sexual function, and can make gynecologic exams more comfortable. As women age, the vagina can naturally lose moisture and elasticity the ability to stretch or move comfortably. Cancer surgeries and treatments can speed up these changes. Vaginal dryness and atrophy can make intercourse difficult, and sometimes painful. As with hot flashes, taking hormones can help. But, sometimes these hormones are not recommended because they can promote certain types of cancer growth in female organs. Fluids increase in your vagina when you are excited.
If you have vaginal dryness, you may need extra lubrication to make sex comfortable. If you use a vaginal lubricant, it's best to choose a water-based gel that has no perfumes, coloring, spermicide, herbal remedies, or flavors added, as these chemicals can irritate your delicate genital tissues. Also, warming gels can cause burning in some people.
Lubricants can usually be found near the birth control or feminine hygiene products in drug stores or grocery stores. Be sure to read the labels, and talk with a nurse, doctor, or pharmacist if you have questions. Petroleum jelly, skin lotions, and other oil-based lubricants are not good choices for vaginal lubrication. In some women, they may raise the risk of yeast infection. And if latex condoms are used, they can be damaged by petroleum products and lotions. Also, watch out for condoms or gels that contain nonoxynol-9 N N-9 is a birth control agent that kills sperm, but it can irritate the vagina, especially if the tissues are already dry or fragile.
Before sex, put some lubricant around and inside the entrance of your vagina. This helps get the lubricant inside your vagina. Many couples treat this as a part of foreplay.
If vaginal penetration lasts more than a few minutes, you may need to stop briefly and use more lubricant. Vaginal moisturizers are deed to help keep your vagina moist and at a more normal acid balance pH for a few days. Vaginal moisturizers are applied at bedtime for the best absorption. Vaginal moisturizers are different than lubricants — they last longer and are not usually used for sexual activity.
Vaginal estrogen therapy is a treatment option for vaginal atrophy when the vaginal walls get thinner and less stretchy for some women. Sometimes these hormones are not recommended because the estrogens can promote certain types of cancer growth in female organs. Vaginal hormones are applied to and absorbed into the genital area. They come in gel, cream, suppository, ring, and tablet forms. Most are put into the vagina, although some creams can be applied to the vulva outer part of the vagina.
They focus small amounts of hormones on the vagina and nearby tissues, so that very little gets in the bloodstream to affect other parts of the body. Local vaginal hormones need a prescription. Usually, women who could reach orgasm before cancer treatment can do so after treatment.
But some women may have problems with this. You also can talk with your cancer care team and gynecologist for referral for counseling and sex therapy that can be helpful.
For women who have vaginal dryness or atrophy, sex may be painful. This is called dyspareunia. Pain may be felt in the vagina itself or in the tissues around it, like the bladder and rectum. After certain surgeries and radiation to the pelvis or genital area, the vagina is sometimes shorter and narrower.
But hormone changes are the most common cause of vaginal pain after cancer treatment. It can cause a burning feeling or soreness.
The risk of repeated urinary tract infections or irritation also increases when there is vaginal irritation during sex. Other types of pain that are not in your genital area can affect how comfortable you are during sex. You might need to plan sexual activity rather than be spontaneous for some of these to help. A vaginal dilator is a plastic or rubber tube used to enlarge or stretch dilate the vagina. Dilators also help women learn to relax the vaginal muscles if they are used with Kegel exercises.
They come in many forms and are often used after radiation to the pelvis, cervix, or vagina. If it's needed, your doctor or nurse will tell you where to buy a dilator. Check with your insurance company, too, and find out if you need a prescription.
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You will also be taught when to start using it, and how and when to use it. The dilator feels much like putting in a large tampon for a few minutes. It can be used several times a week to keep your vagina from getting tight from scar tissue that may develop.
Surgery for breast cancer might not directly affect sexual function and doesn't directly affect intercourse. However, it can have an impact on body image.
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And, sensation when being touched during sex can be reduced in the area that's affected by breast surgery. Managing the physical and psychological effects of having breast surgery is important. Many woman having surgery for breast cancer might have and choose the option of breast reconstruction. This can include nipple reconstruction too, and tattooing for the nipple and surrounding area. Counseling and support groups may be helpful too.