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hysterectomy, pelvic radiation sexual side effects?

Posts: 3
Joined: Apr 2013

Dear all ~ My partner Michelle was diagnosed a month ago with uterine carcinosarcoma/MMMT. It's been a rough journey, and only this week is she slated to begin radiation treatments after a planned surgery was cancelled at the last minute. (The tumor has gotten too big to safely perform a hysterectomy, according to her oncological gynecologist/surgeon. Hopefully the radiation will shrink it enough to operate.)

She's lately too overwhelmed to be online doing research and communicating, so she asked me to take this on. And I recognize that my asking about sexual side effects might make some people uncomfortable. But I have to do what I can. And this is a priority question for her. (I will be there for her either way, and am much more concerned for her survival right now than anything else.)

She's been unofficially diagnosed as stage 3. Statistics available are pretty scary/grim. We're both very worried on many fronts.

She wants me to ask about the sexual side effects of doing pelvic radiation. Does anyone out there have experience of getting these treatments and still, somehow, having a sex life? Sensation? The possibility of orgasms approaching what they might have been like before? I realize it's an awkward question to pose, and that many people might be uncomfortable responding. For Michelle, knowing that some pleasurable experience is still possible after all this what she's really looking for. Sexuality is an integral part of her psyche and she feels as though something essential about her life force will be destroyed with these treatments. Anyone out there dealing with the same? Any ideas that have worked for you to maintain a sex life after undergoing this kind of stuff?

Thank you for reading. We are so grateful for this community!

~ Nick

Alexandra's picture
Posts: 1311
Joined: Jul 2012

Sorry about Michelle's condition and best wishes to both of you. You can read about sexual side effects of gyno cancer and treatment in detail http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/sexualsideeffectsinwomen/sexualityforthewoman/index.

It's not uncommon for chemo and radiation to trigger menopause. Oophorectomy always means menopause. Total hysterectomy (incl. cervix) means shorter vaginal sleeve length. Natural lubrication will decrease or disappear. She will still be able to reach clitoral and G-spot orgasm, maybe not every time, but it might take longer foreplay and lots of lube. Orgasms will not be like before, without uterus contractions they are shorter and shallower. Sometimes pelvic radiation causes vaginal burns and pain with intercouse. You might want to ask her radiologist about using vaginal dilators during and after radiation. Cancer diagnosis, chemo, radiation and surgery, all may cause depression, fatigue and lower / absent libido in some but not all women.

What will really happen is pretty unpredictable and depends on Michelle's overall physical, mental and emotional status. I suspect that this issue will quickly stop being a priority for her once she starts treatment. Let her take the lead and she will tell you when she is again ready for vaginal intercourse. And obviously there are other ways to be sexual until she heals and gets used to the "new normal".

Having said that it is fully possible to maintain active sex life during chemo and after hysterectomy. I did. Not quite as satisfying as before cancer, but active. However I have not had radiation.

Posts: 3
Joined: Apr 2013

Dear Alexandra ~

Thank you for your helpful (and fast) response! Michelle and I really appreciate any illumination we can get on the subject, and it means a lo to hear from others out there who have gone through it and are willing to talk about it. She is (only a little) heartened to learn that orgasm is still possible, even if shallower, as you say. I am not putting any agenda on her with this -- it's more about what she's afraid of losing, and I don't blame her.

Thank you also for the link. This is a great community, and we're grateful for it.

jazzy1's picture
Posts: 1385
Joined: Mar 2010

Sorry to hear about the rather large tumor.  Wow how large is it?  Sure be nice to get out during the hysterectomy, but thankfully there are alternatives to shrink it, as with radiation..  

I as well was diagnosed '09 with stage 3c MMMT cancer, found in 1 pelvic lymph node. I had chemo and 33 rounds of pelvic radiation.  Unfortunately, it was very difficult for me in terms of my bowels and intestines.  Today still dealing with issues on certain foods that I cannot eat or have side affects.  Radiation will zap that tumor and shrink it, but as with anything related to treatments there are side affects or changes in our bodily makeup.  I was given a dilator to use 3x/week, which I'm not as good with over last year.  It will keep this area open and espeically important, accessable for doc when doing exams.  

When we go thru the change of life -- menopause -- it does tend to dry up that area, therefore, lubricants are necessary.  I use a more natural one with no hormones (which many over the counters have this ingredient) as my cancer is hormone receptive.  Everything else with my sex life in this area is pretty normal.

I'd ask the doc many questions on side affects and if he'd suggest a dilator and recommend a lubricant.  In the scheme of things, the best thing for your partner, reduce that darn tumor ---- the other things will fall into place.  

 Best to you both,


txtrisha55's picture
Posts: 625
Joined: Apr 2011

Knowing that she has someone to go through this with her has to be a comfort.  I too have uterine carcinosarcoma/MMMT stage 3 and was found in one lynph node like jazzy1.  My treatment from my gyn onc dr was 6 treatments every 21 days of carbo/taxol chemo only.  I am 20 months out from last treatment and doing ok so far.  I had no radiation.  Since that is the case I cannot give advice on that.  However, I can offer my thought and prayers for the both of you.  trish

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