Understanding sexuality during your testicular cancer journey

Hi Readers! 

This week’s topic is testicular cancer. Specifically, how testicular cancer can affect your sexuality. For all other information about testicular cancer, please visit the Orchid Cancer Appeal’s website. You will be able to download all the information you may want or need. If you or someone you know is affected by testicular cancer, call the Orchid Free National Helpline on 0808 802 0010 to speak to a specialist nurse. You can also email helpline@orchid-cancer.org.uk The helpline is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:00am to 5:30pm.

A lot of the information in today’s article is from Orchid Cancer Appeal.

Individuals who are affected by testicular cancer often have questions about their sexuality post treatment. Usually, removing a testicle will not affect the sexual performance of an individual or their ability to conceive children as the remaining testicle will produce enough testosterone and sperm to compensate, as long as it is healthy. 

If both testicles need to be removed, a testosterone replacement therapy will be needed. Testosterone replacement therapy is usually given in the form of injections or gels and should enable an individual with male anatomy to have sexual intercourse. Chemotherapy can cause temporary infertility that tends to persist for a (short) period of time after the treatment has finished. If you or a loved one is going through testicular cancer and its associated treatment, speak to the healthcare professional about options such as sperm storage or sperm banking. 

This is a great option for individuals who know they want a family as well as for those who are unsure. You will feel more at ease knowing that this is still an option.

Sexuality

A low libido is also a side effect of cancer and cancer treatment but the good news is a stable libido will return once treatment is over. Remember that intimacy is an important part of a couple’s sexuality. You can read more about intimacy here. If this is something you would like to explore, please see the self-help or the couple’s intimacy workbooks here

Talking about your concerns and fears of post treatment sexuality with your partner can feel uncomfortable, scary or timid. Communication within a couple is necessary. You cannot know what your partner is thinking if they do not tell you or you do not ask. Couples may find a new closeness after communicating. I invite you to read last week’s article about communication, if you haven’t already done so, by clicking here.

“One common fear is that cancer cells can be passed on to a partner during sex. This is not true. Cancer is not infectious and it is perfectly safe to have sexual intercourse” – Orchid Cancer Appeal.

For more information please visit www.orchid-cancer.org.uk and yourprivates.org.uk 

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist

Julia, Sexologist Blog

Help us keep this blog going! There is so much more to come. You can also purchase self-help workbooks in our shop!

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How Stress is Affecting your Sex Life

Hi Readers!

April is Stress Awareness Month. Started in 1992, this is a national campaign to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society. 

Dealing with stress can affect your sex life and relationships. When a stress is applied, the body must react and change in order to cope. It does this through a release of hormones, like cortisol and epinephrine, which can cause a decrease in you libido. There are also psychological effects, being stressed about a multitude of things can impact your mood and a busy mind can distract you from wanting sex and lower your libido. Stress can also affect your lifestyle; some people deal with stress by smoking, drinking, overeating, forgetting about self-care and exercise. These choices will influence how you feel about yourself and interfere with your sex life. 

If you suspect that life stress is putting a damper on your libido, the first thing you should consider  is stress management. Changing the way you perceive and digest the stress can help you manage it better. There are many known strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety to ensure they won’t have an impact on your sexuality: meditation, high intensity exercise, yoga, journaling, and aromatherapy are just a few examples.

It is also recommended that you look at the health of your relationships. If there are stress and conflicts within those relationships, it may have an impact on your libido. It is important that you are communicating with the other person in your relationship. Try to understand the challenges you face together rather than being against each other. Spoil alert! Blaming one another doesn’t get you anywhere and you won’t find a solution that way. Be conscious of how you are getting your argument/point of view across. Using “ I feel….” or “I would like…” rather than “you did this…” and “you are so…”  * stay tuned for next week’s article about communication to learn more. 

Pick up a hobby together. Exercising together can be a fun way of spending time together. Make time for each other during the week. Practice just being together, with no pressure to have sex. A lot of couples tend to put pressure on sexual intercourse, but sexuality and intimacy are so much more than that. Focus on sensations and experiences rather than focusing on sex. For example: hugging, mutual massages, taking a bath/shower together.

Practice self-care and self-esteem, they make a difference in your sex life. If you don’t feel good about yourself, it will transpire in your sexuality and you won’t feel like having sex and being intimate with your partner.  

Our Intimacy Self-Help workbook and our Couple’s Intimacy workbook are available to purchase. 

Our Guide to Self-Love workbook is available to purchase here

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist

Julia, Sexologist Blog

Help us keep this blog going! There is so much more to come. You can also purchase self-help workbooks in our shop!

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Erogenous zones

Hi Readers! 

Last week we spoke about the Masters & Johnson sexual response cycle. In that article, I briefly mentioned erogenous zones and today we are going to talk about them!

What are erogenous zones? Do we all have them? How do I know what mine are? 

Erogenous zones are located all over the human body. They are an area of the body that has heightened sensitivity, which, when stimulated, may generate a sexual response: relaxation, the production of sexual fantasies, sexual arousal and orgasm. Sensitivity to each varies and depends on concentrations of nerve endings that can provide pleasurable sensations when stimulated.  Touching another person’s erogenous zone is an act of physical intimacy. Whether a person finds stimulation in these areas to be pleasurable or objectionable depends on a range of factors; level of arousal, the circumstances in which it takes place, cultural context, nature of the relationship between persons involved and personal history.

Spending time exploring your own body and that of your partner is a pleasurable way to discover exactly what turns you on sexually and what you really don’t like. 

When anyone talks about erogenous zones, people immediately think about the obvious body parts: breast, nipples, clitoris, penis. Yes, these are sexual areas that are more erogenous than other parts. But there are plenty of other erogenous zones, including but not limited to:

  • Eyelids
  • Eyebrows
  • Temples
  • Lips
  • Feet
  • Shoulders
  • Hands
  • Arms
  • Hair
  • Abdominal
  • Navel
  • The brain

I challenge you to find out what yours and your partner’s are. This can be a great lockdown activity or if you have some downtime during the holidays, explore!

Be kind to one another

Julia, Sexologist

Julia, Sexologist Blog

We are here to help you grow. To improve, maintain and restore your sexual health. To help keep this blog going, any contribution will be helpful.

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Endometriosis

Hi Readers!

This weeks article is about endometriosis. Please note that this article is for anyone who has a uterus. This affects women who identify as women as well as trans* men.

This condition can affect individuals with a uterus of any age. 

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

It is a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your life. This article will touch on the signs and symptoms, cause and treatments of endometriosis. 

How do I know if I have endometriosis?

Some women are severely affected, while others may not have any symptoms. The main symptoms of endometriosis are: 

  • Pain in your lower abdomen or back, usually worse during menstruations
  • Period pain that stops you doing your daily activities
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Pain when urinating or defecating during your period
  • Feeling sick, constipated, having diarrhoea or blood in your urine during your period (it is understandable if you cannot identify this correctly)
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Heavy menstruations, using lots of tampons or hygienic pads, possibly even bleeding through your clothes.                   

For some, endometriosis can have a big impact on their life and may sometimes lead to feelings of depression. 

When should you visit your GP?

It is important to go see your GP or a healthcare professional if the symptoms are having a big impact on your life. Be prepared when you see your GP; it always seems more difficult to remember everything you are going through when you are sitting in front of them. To help with this, Endometriosis UK created a diary for you to fill out.

It can be difficult to diagnose endometriosis because the symptoms can vary and be similar to other conditions. The GP will examine your lower abdomen and vagina. If your GP thinks you have endometriosis, they may prescribe some treatment. If these do not work, they will refer you to a gynaecologist, who will perform ultrasound scans and further investigate. 

What are the treatments for endometriosis?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis, but there are treatments that help ease the symptoms and manage the pain such as:

  • Painkillers (Ibuprofen and paracetamol – for my Canadian & American readers this is Tylenol, Motrin and Advil) 
  • Hormone medicines and contraceptives
  • Surgery to remove the patches of endometriosis tissue
  • Removal of part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis (hysterectomy)

Your doctor will discuss the options with you. Sometimes they may suggest not starting treatment immediately to see if your symptoms improve on their own.

What are the complications of endometriosis?

One of the main complications of this condition is difficulty getting pregnant or infertility.

There is a possibility of surgery to remove endometriosis tissue. This can improve the chances of getting pregnant. However, there are no guarantees that you will be able to get pregnant after treatment. Please be sure to speak to your surgeon about possible risks of this surgery. 

Living with endometriosis

Endometriosis affects women physically and emotionally. 

Endometriosis UK has a support group, a helpline (0808 808 2227) and an online community. 

Causes of endometriosis

Unfortunately, the cause of this condition is not known but there are several theories:

  • Genetics: this condition tends to run in the family and affects women of certain ethnic groups more than others
  • Retrograde menstruation: this is when the lining of the womb flows up through the fallopian tubes and embeds itself on the organs of the pelvis rather than leaving the body.
  • Problem with the immune system: the body’s natural defence against illness and infection
  • Endometrium cells spreading through the body in the blood or lymphatic system (a series of tubes and glands that form part of the immune system)

These theories do not fully explain endometriosis. It can be very frustrating for anyone not to have an answer to the question why this is happening? Where is this coming from?

The treatments that are offered for endometriosis, aim to ease the symptoms so they do not affect your day-to-day life. The treatments can be given to relive pain, slow the growth of endometriosis tissue, improve fertility or stop the condition returning. Before deciding which treatment is best for you, your gynaecologist will walk you trough the risks and benefits of each. There are things to consider when choosing your treatment; your age, are you trying to get pregnant, your feelings towards surgery and if you have tried any treatments before. 

If your symptoms are mild, you have no fertility issues or you are nearing menopause, it may not be necessary to have treatment. 

Sometimes endometriosis gets better on its own. Sometimes it can also get worse if it is not treated. This is why it is important to keep an eye on your symptoms and decide whether or not you want treatment if your symptoms do not improve and being to affect your daily activities. 

Fertility problems

Once again, it is not fully understood why it causes fertility problems but it is often suggested that it is due to the damage done to the fallopian tubes. Not all women with endometriosis will have problems getting pregnant, some will be able to get pregnant without treatment. 

Surgery sometimes helps as it removes the visible patches of endometriosis tissues but there is no guarantee that you will get pregnant. Some women and couples will decide to go down the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) route but if the women has moderate to severe endometriosis, they will have a lower chance of getting pregnant through this method. ( I have written an article about IVF treatment affects on your sexuality if you are interested.)

Adhesions and ovarian cysts

Some individuals with endometriosis will develop adhesions (sticky areas of endometriosis tissues that join organs together) or ovarian cysts (fluid filled growth in the ovaries that can sometimes become very large and painful). These can happen when the endometriosis tissue is in or near the ovaries. These can be treated with surgery, although there is a possibility these come back if the endometriosis returns. 

Bladder and bowel problems

If the endometriosis affects the bladder or the bowel, it can be difficult to treat and may require major surgery. You may be referred to a specialist. If it affects the bladder and you need surgery, this may involve cutting away part of the bladder. There is also a possibility of placing a catheter.

Please speak to your GP if you have symptoms or a family history. 

If you would like to arrange a counselling session around the effects it is having on your sexuality or self-esteem, please contact me to book an appointment.

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist

Julia, Sexologist Blog

We are here to help you grow. To improve, maintain and restore your sexual health. To help keep this blog going, any contribution will be helpful.

£5.00

Intimacy

Hi Readers! 

This week’s article is about intimacy and alternatives to sexual intercourse. In a world so focused on penetration, its important to explore what is beyond that. I’m sure you can find something amazing. 

Everyone lives their sexuality and intimacy in their own way, whichever way suits them best, however they feel comfortable. 

What does intimacy mean to you? (Yes, you need to answer this question now.)

How do you define intimacy? (Yessss, you need to answer this question, too.)

The concept of intimacy is defined in different ways. Sometimes, we think of intimacy as two people having sexual intercourse. Intimacy can be defined by nudity or solo sexual practices, like masturbation. For some, intimacy only refers to the sexual organs. 

For others, intimacy encompasses emotional proximity, sharing, self-revelation and specific experiences related to intimacy. Intimacy is about well-being, confidence in connection with affection, perception and cognitive state before, during and after the exchange of intimacy. This is what I want you to think about and figure out (if you haven’t explored it yet). 

Intimacy is a close, familiar and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.

Sexuality is one of the core elements of what it is to be human. When we speak of sexuality, we speak of biological sex, sexual identity, sexual roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is also expressed with thoughts, fantasies, beliefs, relationships, roles, practices, behaviour, and desires. 

What are alternatives to intercourse? 

– Being physically close and intimate  

– Touching, stroking, oral sex

– Kissing

– Massaging

– Talking

– Holdings hands, holding each other 

– Taking a bath together 

– Using sex toys and other accessories 

Communicate with yourself and/or your partner about your needs, fears, worries, feelings, what you like and what you don’t like. You may feel a little nervous at the start the conversation, but that’s okay. Your partner may feel the same way. Figure it out together, learn together. 

In early 2021, we will be publishing an intimacy course that you will be able to purchase if you are interested in diving deeper into the subject intimacy. We will explore the components of intimacy and skills to better integrate intimacy into your relationships. 

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist 

Julia, Sexologist Blog

We are here to help you grow. To improve, maintain and restore your sexual health. To help keep this blog going, any contribution will be helpful.

£7.00