Monday 17 November 2014

Side Effects of Cancer Treatment Affects Pelvic and Sexual Health

Treatments for Gynecologic Cancers Can Affect Sexual Function and Responses to Intimacy

Side effects of gynecologic cancer and its treatment can affect sexual identity and sexual health
While many of the side effects of cancer and its treatment cannot be seen, they can still have a detrimental effect on cancer patients' sense of well-being and quality of life. One of these is the side effects that cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy have on pelvic and sexual health.

According to the University Health Network, the changes experienced from treatments for gynecologic cancers can affect patients' sexuality in different ways, both directly and indirectly. It often involves a lot of creativity, communication and patience to copy with them while dealing with cancer and still maintain a sexual identity and sexual health.

Vaginal Stenosis, Pelvic Floor Muscle Weakness and Urinary Incontinence Can Result from Gynecologic Cancer and Its Treatment

Some of the ways that cancer and its treatments can impact healthy pelvic and sexual function are:
  • Radiation to the pelvis can cause vaginal dryness and stenosis (narrowing and shortening of the vagina) that can lead to pain with penetration or intercourse ("dyspareunia") or even pelvic exams that are so important for cancer reoccurence monitoring
  • Pelvic radiation and chemotherapy can lead to pelvic floor muscle wasting and weakness which can lead to urinary/fecal incontinence and even pelvic organ prolapse

Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation Can Help Restore Sexual Function and Pelvic Health After Cancer

At Cancer Rehab Canada, a trained pelvic health physiotherapist can be an invaluable resource to help cancer patients overcome the side effects that cancer treatment may have on their sexual and pelvic health. According to Liane McCabe, Physiotherapist at the LifeMark Bathurst Clinic, pelvic floor rehabilitation includes:

  • Teaching patients how to locate and strengthen pelvic floor muscles to improve bowel/bladder control or pelvic organ prolapse
  • Teaching patients how to relax and stretch tight pelvic floor muscles to make sexual intercourse and pelvic examinations less painful
  • Educating patients on techniques to improve the health of their vaginal tissues
For more resources on cancer and sexual and pelvic health please visit:
Canadian Cancer Society – Sexuality and Cancer
University Health Network Gynecologic Cancers
Ovarian Cancer Canada
Foundation for Women’s Cancer

Please contact one of our 62 Cancer Rehab locations across Canada. Links will direct to a Cancer Rehab provider in your area.

British Columbia
Saskatchewan & Manitoba
Nova Scotia

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