An important part of the uniqueness our humanness is expressed through our sexuality. This can influence show we relate within our intimate relationships, family, friends and society in general. The notion of ‘being sexual’ involves the concepts of sexual drive (libido), sexual activities, intimacy, and one’s physical closeness and expression of maleness, femaleness or other gender identity. Such processes however, are influenced by a range of factors such as cultural diversity, social communities, and of course health and illness. It has been estimated that between 20% - 90% of those diagnosed with cancer experience sexual problems at some point during and / or after their treatment as a direct consequence of their illness or treatment (Barton-Burke & Gustason, 2007).
A person who is diagnosed with cancer will experience a range of emotions and challenges related to the initial shock, the treatment, and subsequent psycho-social changes within their relationships and life in general. In addition however, added to these factors is the particularly significant burden of psycho-sexual changes and adjustment as a consequence of the direct or indirect effects of treatment (Krebs, 2007; Atkins & Fallowfield, 2007). Many such issues will arise that are likely to affect an individual’s sexuality, including changes in body image from surgery, and perhaps less obvious but equally potentially damaging, the effects of radiation, chemotherapy, and endocrine therapies. These treatments result in the onset of permanent or temporary early menopause in women involving, amongst others, a diminished sexual desire, vaginal dryness, fatigue, and psychological issues such as a reduction in self-esteem, fear, anxiety and depression (Hughes 2009)