These basic guidelines will help you navigate your sex life during and after cancer treatment.

It’s a difficult topic to cover, but we’re going to do it: we’re talking, of course, about the big C. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, you know that it touches every part of your life. And your sex life is no exception. While it might not be the first thing you think about after your diagnosis, it’s something that’s bound to come up during the course of your fight. So, here are a few tips to help you reclaim your sex life during and after cancer treatment.

Know that you’re not alone.

Unfortunately, cancer affects the sex lives of many survivors and partners. From erectile dysfunction to vaginal dryness to simple exhaustion from fighting the disease, the side effects can be far-reaching and unexpected. Understand that if you’re having sexual difficulties after a cancer diagnosis, it’s not “just you,” but a result of what can happen as part of treatment. The effects can be short-term or long-lasting, so you might also need to find a “new normal” for your sex life. This can be discouraging, so try to view it as a chance to branch out and try new things.

Love your new body.

Whether you’re losing your hair from chemotherapy or dealing with surgical scars, cancer treatment isn’t exactly designed to make you feel your most attractive. And since the first step to great sex is feeling sexy, a negative self-image can stop your session before it starts. To combat these feelings, focus on the positive. Think of three things about your body that you love, and focus on them. These traits don’t have to be sexual—it could be something as simple (and silly) as the shape of your nose or the freckle by your belly-button. What’s important is that you affirm positive things about your body, and remember that it’s not the enemy; it’s working with you to get you through your treatment!

Communicate with your partner.

It probably goes without saying that if you’re in a relationship, it’s essential to let your partner in on your thoughts, feelings, desires, and fears. That goes for every aspect of your life, but it’s especially true when it comes to your sex life. Try to be specific, but not accusatory, about what’s working, what isn’t, and what you would like to try. And remember: communication is a two-way street, so make sure to listen to your partner’s thoughts on the subject as well.

Try new forms of intimacy.

After cancer treatment, what once excited you in bed might not anymore. It’s not the most comforting thing to discover about your body, but unfortunately, it’s true. You may need to do some exploring to find what feels good to you, and you might even need to rethink what being intimate means to you and your partner. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. You might discover a whole new side of your sexuality!

Armed with information, the right attitude, and your partner’s support, you’ll be well on your way to bringing your sexy back!

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