Sex & Intimacy


Treatment for colorectal cancer (especially radiation for rectal cancer) can make intercourse difficult, painful, and undesirable – or in some cases, impossible.

You might be too anxious to think about intimacy, or just too tired. Most often, issues around sex are not automatically discussed by your healthcare team, so if you have concerns, raise the subject.

Remember that sexuality is about more than intercourse. It is about everything associated with the intimacy of loving someone. Because of the power of intimacy, feeling sexually satisfied can involve something as simple as a kiss or caress.

Tips to manage problems with sex and intimacy

  • Talk to your partner about your concerns, feelings of embarrassment and fears of sexual dysfunction – relationships and intimacy are often improved when we can share candidly
  • If you have rectal cancer and are receiving radiation, talk with your radiologist about ways to minimize impacts on your sexual organs
  • Ask your doctor about treatments that may improve your sexual desire, performance or both
  • Talk with a counselor or other survivors about other ways to manage sexual side effects
  • Try alternative ideas for intimate contact if intercourse is uncomfortable or impossible

Resources for Cancer & Intimacy Issues

Content medically-reviewed by members of the Fight Colorectal Cancer Medical Advisory Board, February 2014

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