How Do Women Regain Sexual Function After Colon Cancer?

Robin McGee talks about women regaining sexual function after colon cancer

119972345A colon cancer diagnosis can be very confusing and emotional. Add in a potential loss of sexual function, and it can be even more confusing.

Robin McGee has been there. She wants you to know that you’re not alone, and there are treatments that can help.

Robin wants you to know that there is an important window of time where you can use your sexual function, and not all women will totally lose it either.

Your healthcare team will be able to help.

It always helps to hear from someone who has been there. For more, watch Robin in the video below.

Video Transcript

Robin McGee:  Another thing now, this is difficult for lots of people to talk about but its, I wished god I had known this and so, I am just going to tell you frankly about it that it is really, colorectal cancer treatments can have a big impact on your sexual health and on your intimate relationships and in that if there are variety of pathways, there is of course things relating to body image, self-esteem, fatigue, pain, anxiety, all these things of course impact us as sexual beings but quite mechanically if you are a woman and you are undergoing radiation, external or internal to your pelvis, you are going to need to get direction and guidance on how to sort of preserve your vaginal tissues and one way of doing that is through these things called vaginal dilators and so, what is a vaginal dilator, I had never heard that.

I have strange images of strange machines but what it is, it is essentially an upside down plastic test tube and they tell you to use it.  The important thing to know though, there is a window of opportunity to use it, if you don’t use it within that window of opportunity, you may actually lose, your vagina may close to a point where it is so small that sexual function is impossible or conceivably even medical exams become impossible, so I think that all women, a gay or strayed or married or in relationships, whatever they are deserve the opportunity to preserve their sexual function for the rest of their lives and the way to do it is to use these vaginal dilators and to use them at the right time. 

Now, your healthcare team can help you to meet with timing but essentially, sometime, couple of weeks after your radiation is over, you have to start this treatment or you will face consequences and I remember listening to a Colon Cancer Alliance seminar some years ago with an expert who was describing this, the sexual damage that colorectal cancer treatments do to people and a woman phoned up and it sounded from her voice like a woman in her sixties and she said to the doctor, I am left this way, all damaged, was there something I could have done to prevent it and he said I am sorry to tell you this but there was a way, there would have been a way, there were these vaginal dilators and the woman burst into tears and she sobbed right there in the middle of this, this webinar.  So, doctors were all focused on, you are going to die if we don’t treat you this time you have cancer, we have to save your life.  They are not thinking often very often about things that are might important to you like your sexual wellbeing, so it is really important to get a jump on the kinds of things that can harm you and for men, rectal cancer treatments, radiation treatments can impact sexual function as well, but that does not have to be either, there is Viagra, there are other treatments that can really help men optimize their functioning. 

Many men go for the first year of treatment just fine and they think, oh great I escaped, it is the second year that impacts them.  Radiation continues to affect us for many, many years after our treatments and for many men, that is upsetting, it is shocking, it is all what things you can imagine, but there is no reasonbecause there are treatments out there that can help but it does mean that you are going to have to raise that with your healthcare providers as tough as that can be, so there you are.

Robin McGee
Dr. Robin McGee is a Registered Clinical Psychologist, mother, wife, educator and friend. Living in Port Williams, Nova Scotia, she has been a dedicated clinician in health and education settings for over 25 years. Since entering remission, she has been very active in patient advocacy, serving as the patient representative on several provincial and national initiatives aimed at improving standards of cancer care.‏ Her book "The Cancer Olympics" details her journey with colon cancer, her search for justice with the College of Physicians, and her advocacy for fair drug policy with her government.


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