Researchers have found that at least 70% of women who survive breast cancer and up to 75% of prostate cancer survivors have problems with intimacy.
Add in common health problems like diabetes, depression and heart disease, which can also affect sexual performance, and it’s clear that health-related sexual dysfunction is more common than you might realise.
People who have a serious illness often feel very tired and may be depressed
They may be in pain and have trouble sleeping, or they may have had surgery that has changed their body and affected their sense of self. These are all factors that may affect not only your wanting to have sex but your ability to have sex, too.
Patty Brisben, who co-authored Sexy Ever After: Intimacy Post-Cancer with Keri Peterson, MD, says that while illness can make intimacy challenging, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your sex life. You might need to change your understanding of intimacy, though, depending on the nature of the illness and the effect it has had on your body.
"What we see in our culture is that you can't have a relationship without intercourse and that's so not the truth," says Brisben. "Life doesn't end because you can't have intercourse."
Making love, she says, is about erotic pleasure, not about individual body parts
She suggests letting your partner know how you feel, what you want and, most importantly, what you need. "A sure sign that not much is going on inside the bedroom is when there’s a lack of communication outside the bedroom," Brisben says.
Patty Brisben is a sex and relationship expert and founder of the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health, a non-profit organisation dedicated to researching and furthering women’s sexual health. She is also the founder of Pure Romance, a woman-to-woman direct seller of intimacy aids that focuses on empowering and educating women.