Body image, sex and intimacy for women with a new diagnosis

Our information and support can help you manage changes to your body image and sexual activity after diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.

Identity and body image

Dealing with an altered body image can be particularly difficult after an ovarian cancer diagnosis. You may have surgical scars, or now have a stoma, you may have experienced a surgical menopause, have gained or lost weight during your chemotherapy or be facing the temporary loss of your hair.

Meeting other women who have experienced this can be helpful. You might want to think about finding a support group near you, attending one of our support events or reading about other women's experiences.

More support

Your clinical nurse specialist (CNS) will continue to support you to get used to this new way of life.

Some oncology units have volunteers who can give advice about makeup, skincare and scarves. Look Good Feel Better offers makeup workshops and resources to women after treatment.

Sex and intimacy 

With a partner

Sex might be the last thing on your mind if you've just received your diagnosis. For some women though, having sex during this time can help them feel cared for, loved and secure. Your response will be very personal. Physical contact with a partner will release certain chemicals in your brain and make you feel better, so whether it's a cuddle, a kiss or more, it might help you to combat the stress you are trying to cope with.

For many women, having sex again after treatment is a sign that life is getting back to normal. But it may require a bit more time and effort than it did before your cancer treatment. You may have to reassure your partner that you want to try sex or touch each other intimately. Sex can help us feel connected to our partner so if it's something you feel you want, it's worth having a go.

Remember that neither you nor your partner's sexual activity caused your ovarian cancer; having sex will not make it worse and your partner can't catch it.

On your own

We can make ourselves feel good by touching and taking pleasure from our bodies. There is nothing wrong with this at any time of our life and when you're living with cancer this may help you cope. It may also help you feel that you 'own' your body. After having had doctors examining you, touching yourself may be comforting and help you reconnect with your body.

If there's a problem

Sometimes women have difficulties having sex again. This is not unusual and your CNS will be happy to speak to you about any concerns that you might have. It may be that you can solve the problem by talking to a sex therapist (usually a specially trained psychologist) through your local NHS. Ask your CNS or GP to refer you. Don't be shy; sex is an important area of our lives. It will help both you and your partner move past what you have been through and give you a sense of being a team again.

If you're experiencing vaginal dryness or painful sex following treatment, you may benefit from using a lubricant to improve moistness. Your CNS will be able to give you more advice and information about this, and you should be able to find a large variety of lubricants on the shelves of the larger chemists. 

Listen to our 'Ovarian cancer, sex and intimacy' podcast or read the transcript [PDF], where we answer your questions, talk about what physical and emotional issues you may face and discuss how you can seek help and support.

 


This information is reviewed regularly and is in line with accepted national and international guidelines. All of our publications undergo an expert peer review and are reviewed by women with ovarian cancer to ensure that we provide accurate and high-quality information. To find out more take a look at our information standards.