Sexuality-MW: The Mind
The Medicine Wheel: Sexuality and Intimacy's
Impact on the Mind

Medicine WheelSpritualPhysicalEmotionalMental
This section lists some of the ways in which our minds and mental functioning can cause changes in our sexuality.

    How can the mind affect my sexual feelings and responses?
    • Sexuality starts in the mind.
    • Your brain is responsible for making you feel interested in sex.
    • If you are anxious, sad or worried about your cancer and its treatment, you will probably be less interested in sex or sexual activities.
    • Sometime you can create situations that do not exist or think things that are not true (such as believing that your partner will not love you if you do not have a breast or cannot have a child).
    • Sometimes someone may make a comment that you take the wrong way or out of context. You may make a sexual decision based on what you think was said rather than what is meant.

    What are some common worries/concerns about sexuality?

    • Being embarrassed about physical changes such as hair loss (see hair loss branch) or scars (try wearing sexy lingerie or a partial clothing. Dim the lights. Use makeup that is made to cover scars.)
    • Worrying that your partner will not find you attractive
    • Worrying about how you will perform (or if you can perform)
    • Worrying about how to explain your cancer and its treatment to a new sexual partner
    • Being afraid your stoma will leak.
    • Worrying that someone can "catch cancer from you" (they cannot)
    • Feeling unattractive; disliking how your body looks
    • Worrying that sexual activity can cause cancer (technically it cannot although the Human Papilloma Virus which is related to cervical cancer can be passed from one person to another during sex)
    • Being afraid that having sex will make your cancer worse (it will not, in fact for some, intimacy and sexual activities actually make you feel better about yourself and more healthy)

    Why is talking about sexuality changes so hard?

    • Most of us do not usually talk about our sex lives with others, particularly strangers (even our healthcare providers)
    • Some do not talk openly with their partners about their sexual needs and wants
    • It often feels embarrassing to talk with others about sex
    • It is often hard to find the right words to use
    • Many use slang words or expressions that are not always clear to others ("I have a pain down there" may mean vaginal pain or it could be something else)
    • Try writing down your questions/concerns to ask your provider so you will not forget or be as embarrassed (please see the sections on questions to ask your provider and common questions in other leaves on this branch).
    • Talking to a specialist on sexuality may help; ask your provider to recommend an appropriate person.
    • Even if you cannot have intercourse, a good "mind set" can promote intimacy and closeness, providing support and comfort.

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