Relationships, sex and intimacy for women whose cancer is incurable

We know that finding out your ovarian cancer is no longer responding to treatment can change wants or needs for sex and intimacy. This is completely normal. Here we provide advice to help you find the right balance for you.

It's normal for women to vary in terms of wants or needs for sex and intimacy. Your sexual feelings may or may not have changed and it's okay to want or not want to hold hands, kiss or have sex with a partner.

Having ovarian cancer can cause emotional and physical difficulties that can impact on your sexuality and sex life. Some women might find they have an increased need for closeness and others may withdraw. However you feel, it's important to find the right balance for you. You might find it helpful to talk to your partner, friends or clinical nurse specialist (CNS) about how you're feeling.

It's still okay to have sex if you want to. If you're finding sexual intercourse difficult, it's okay to ask for help and advice. Sometimes simple changes such as a different position or being intimate when you're not tired or in pain can help. You may find you need more lubrication during sex than you used to. Some lubricants are available on prescription so ask your GP or CNS for advice about these. You should also be able to find a variety of lubricants quite easily on the shelves of the larger chemists.

Some women feel unhappy or frightened about having sexual intercourse. There are also other ways to find sexual satisfaction that don't include penetration, and these can be very pleasurable and rewarding both physically and emotionally. It's also not essential to have sexual intimacy to feel closeness to a partner. Intimacy is greater than just sexual intimacy, so you might prefer to spend time relaxing in and enjoying your partner's company. 

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.