Body image/intimate relations

couple on beachIt's important to recognise that a diagnosis of bowel cancer, and subsequent treatment, can have a profound effect on your body image, your sexuality and your personal relationships. How you view yourself and how you feel about yourself is such a key component of who you are that it's important that you don't push this area of your life aside.

Whether you're single, dating or in a committed partnership, there are inevitably going to be issues in relation to your body image, your sexuality and your personal relationships that you'd want to talk to someone about.

The thought of discussing such sensitive and personal issues with anyone else can be a very daunting and embarrassing idea. It is, however, important to remember that healthcare professionals are used to talking about such issues and increasingly raise the topic of body image, sex and sexuality with their patients during the course of their treatment.

Common worries

It's also important to realise that you're not alone. There are a number of common worries which people affected by cancer share including:

  • Concerns that their partner will no longer find them attractive
  • Worries that they will be unable to form new relationships for fear of rejection when explaining their medical history to a new partner
  • Embarrassment over physical changes, which could include a stoma, scarring, or problems with their bowels.
  • The noises either their stoma or bowels can make, or problems with wind.
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem.

Speaking to your doctor

However hard it can be, do talk to your doctor, nurse or GP about how you're feeling. They might be able to provide the answers you're looking for; alternatively, they may refer you to a counsellor or therapist to help you find ways of overcoming your current challenges.

Also, perhaps you could post on our forum and explain how you're feeling – it can be completely anonymous – and you may find people out there who are feeling just like you.

Please see our booklet "Beyond Bowel Cancer - Living Well" for further advice.


Last reviewed 13.2.13

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