Cancer of the womb (uterus) is a common cancer that arises from the endometrium (the lining of the uterus or womb) and affects the female reproductive system. It's also called uterine cancer and endometrial cancer.
Despite being the fourth most common cancer in females in the UK, many women are not being offered appropriate advice about sexual health problems that can occur during and following treatment, impacting upon their sex lives.
Having womb cancer impacts on your sex life, with many women experiencing sexual problems that affect their relationships, as well as their ability to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure.
Regaining your sex life can take time and it may not feel the same as it did before cancer treatment. Some couples find that it can be better as they become more intimate, something that may have been missing from their relationship before treatment, but sadly many women and couples struggle to enjoy sex.
Talking about your problems with your partner and doctor is important but some women find their partners feel uncomfortable discussing their sex life. Meanwhile, many healthcare professionals discuss sexual problems before or after cancer treatment with their patients, but don’t offer practical solutions and may be unsympathetic to their needs.
Talking to each other about sexual concerns and finding ways in which to overcome them can be good, but some couples struggle to have these conversations. Being referred for counselling can help, but often the waiting list can be long.
Many healthcare professionals (HCPs) will tell you that they find it hard to talk about sex with their patients, yet it’s even harder for women to raise some of their problems with their doctor for fear of being dismissed or told they’ll just have to put up with it!
At Jo Divine we are trying to help HCPs by giving talks to doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other HCPs to help them offer suitable advice about how to overcome these problems.
There are so many ways in which people can enjoy sex after cancer through exploring different pathways to sexual pleasure and intimacy, yet many HCPs fail to offer this advice
and don’t recommend support groups and websites like Jo Divine, that has over 300 sexual health and pleasure articles in the online magazine. Having a nursing background, I’ve written many of the articles to offer simple, practical advice and products that can help sexual health issues.
Some HCPs are extremely innovative and offer great advice but there is a huge variation in the standard and level of advice being offered and recommended across the UK.
At the request of a consultant urogynaecologist and women’s health physiotherapist, and in consultation with them about products, we created a health brochure that can be given to women containing sex toys, lubricants and pelvic floor exercisers that can help with a whole range of gynaecological problems such as vaginal tightness, vaginal dryness, postoperative scarring, decreased sexual sensations and symptoms of the menopause that can and do occur after womb cancer treatment.
We also work with women’s health physiotherapists who give out our brochure and do an amazing job of helping women overcome sexual problems caused by cancer treatment.
We have several psychosexual counsellors recommending our health brochure who also work with cancer patients and their partners to help them alleviate their sexual issues by offering a variety of therapies that can help. Couples counselling is also invaluable when dealing with the loss of your fertility and not being able to have children.
With a combination of help and treatment from a range of HCPs and self help through using sex toys and lubricants, you can enjoy good sexual pleasure and intimacy.
Undergoing a hysterectomy can leave the vagina feeling shorter and tighter, making sex painful or uncomfortable. HCPs will offer medical dilators to help stretch the tissues of the vagina but many women dislike them as they feel very clinical and uncomfortable to use and fail to continue using them.
At Jo Divine we recommend using medical dilators with a vibrator. Used in conjunction, dilators and vibrators offer different experiences for many women. Medical dilators can help to stretch the tight tissues of the vagina whilst a vibrator can promote blood flow to the healing tissues and feel pleasurable too, especially on the clitoris.
If you struggle with dilators, consider trying a slim vibrator to begin with, and move onto a slightly bigger product. Once you have overcome any vaginal tightness, you’ll have a few sex toys to play with!
Some women consider using a vibrator as too sexual and prefer to use medical dilators to treat their condition. However, many women feel as if their body gets hijacked by HCPs during cancer treatments and they are no longer in control.They just want to feel sexual again after undergoing months, if not years of medical treatment and surgical intervention, and for them, using a vibrator is a less clinical way to enjoy sexual pleasure and intimacy again.
Once you have overcome any vaginal tightness, medical dilators get thrown away but a vibrator can continue to be incorporated into your sex play, either alone or with your partner, adding greater sexual pleasure into your relationship.
Having a total hysterectomy or radiotherapy will send you into a medical or surgical menopause and can cause a decrease in vaginal secretions, making you feel less lubricated during sex.
One of the most common complaints during the menopause, vaginal dryness, can affect nearly all women, young or old, at some time during their life. Many women are too embarrassed to discuss the problem or seek help. Yet, using lubricants makes sex feel more pleasurable and last longer both for men and women.
Vaginal moisturisers and lubricants are probably the one thing your doctor will prescribe and many women use them, both prescribed and over the counter which can help their symptoms. If you find your lubricant isn’t helping, switch to another one. There are several different products available on prescription so find one that suits you.
We recommend YES organic lubricants as they are very similar to the natural secretions of the vagina, pH balanced to the pH of the vagina and completely organic. YES water based is available on prescription but not the oil based formulation. If the water based formulation isn’t helping, try the oil based lubricant which is thicker and lasts longer, however, like all oil based lubricants, it isn’t condom safe.
You may wish to consider a silicone based lubricant which feels more slippy. Silicone based lubricants cannot be used with silicone sex toys as they can damage the silicone of the toy.
Of all the products we sell at Jo Divine, YES organic lubricants are the one we recommend the most. Personally for my husband and myself, it has made sex so much more pleasurable and we don’t have sex without it! I have less vaginal infections, such as thrush,
bacterial vaginosis and very few urinary tract infections, all of which plagued me monthly until I found YES! .
It is a common misconception that “proper” sex requires intercourse but this can leave some couples feeling frustrated if they are not able to have full penetrative sex.
Many HCP s are obsessed with penis in vagina sex (POV), yet there are so many ways to enjoy sexual pleasure and intimacy through non penetrative practices, such as masturbation, mutual genital touching or oral sex.
When penetrative sex is off the menu, many couples often enjoy a more fulfilling sex life by focusing on the many other ways they can make love, such as mutual masturbation using lubricants, oral sex, using sex toys, reading erotic fiction or watching naughty films, and light bondage. Having to think beyond what is considered “normal sex” can make sex feel more exciting and fun too. However, “normal sex” doesn’t exist, just do whatever feels good for you and have fun doing it!
Even just spending time together, cuddling, kissing, non coital touching, massage, caring or talking to each other can increase intimacy.
Introducing a sex toy into your sex play may seem like a daunting thought but using a sex toy can help you enjoy sexual pleasure and be fun too. Contrary to popular belief, most men aren’t daunted by their partner using a sex toy.
And you don’t need to choose the biggest sex toy you can find!
Many clitoral stimulators and slim vibrators offer strong vibratory power and can be slipped between you both during sex play. Using a vibrator on yourself whilst your partner is watching can be incredibly sexy and arousing or let them take control. Many men gain great pleasure from being able to stimulate their partner in this way if full penetrative sex is not possible.
I suggest you explore using a sex toy by yourself, especially if you have postop scarring to find out what feels good, where you feel sensitivity or discomfort and to get the right pulse and vibration setting to suit your needs, before letting your partner join the fun, then you can show them exactly where it feels good.
We only recommend skin safe products, made from silicone, glass, metal or ABS plastic. Rubber, jelly and latex sex toys should be avoided as they contain chemicals which may be harmful to health and are porous, making then difficult to clean, thus increasing your risk of infection.
Why not treat your partner so you can have fun playing together. Often considered a taboo subject, male sex toys offer great sexual health and pleasure benefits. Some men find that having a partner with womb cancer can affect their own sexual performance due to the fear of hurting their partner during sex or the constant worry about the disease and its treatment.
Using an external couples toy can help you both enjoy sexual pleasure and stimulation.
As a sexual health and wellbeing writer, I never give up on looking for ways to help people enjoy sexual pleasure and intimacy and neither should you.
Some of the suggestions above may give you some ideas about how you can improve your sex life. If you’d like further practice help and advice, take a look at the sexual health and pleasure articles in the Jo Divine online magazine.
If you’d like a catalogue or health brochure, call us a call or email. All parcels and letters come in plain packaging. I am more than happy to give you advice over the phone if you would like a chat. All calls are completely confidential and your details are never passed onto other companies.
I’m Samantha Evans, cofounder with my husband of Jo Divine, online sex toy retailer.
Established in 2007 we have been advertising in Woman and Home, Good Housekeeping and YOURS magazines, many of whom have sexual health problems which they often tell us about over the phone.
With a background is nursing, I have written over 300 sexual health and pleasure articles for our online magazine as well as other online websites, such as So Feminine, Female First, Net Doctors, Healthista, the Independent online, Glamour magazine, The Mutton Club, The Daily Express and the Metro.
I also spoke at the National Forum of Gynaecology Oncology Nurses Survivorship Conference in October 2015 about the health brochure and how these products can help sexual problems that may occur after cancer.
Many thanks to Samantha for this article. We know from what many of our ladies have said that this is an area where there is very little information or support available so hopefully they will find this interesting and useful.
xx Kaz xx