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What’s most difficult? Talking about sexual challenges or living with them? The good news, you don’t have to live another day with these challenges. Attaining enjoyable sex following cancer surgery or treatment is possible. Our trained medical professionals can help. Ask us how.

Sex and Your Cancer Treatment at a Glance

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Symptoms

Cancer changes your body, sometimes creating challenges in your sex life and your sexual organs depending on the type of treatment you received. Men report symptoms of fatigue, tiredness, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, low libido and more. Women who have had breast, vaginal, cervical or ovarian cancers report concerns with decreased orgasms, vaginal dryness, tightness, scarring, incontinence, anxiety and more.  The emotional pain of not being able to connect intimately with your partner is real. We can help.

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Steps to Diagnosis

If sex hurts, you have lost interest in sex since you started cancer treatment, or sex is no longer satisfying, your physician may refer you to one of our specialists. You may also refer yourself for treatment. 

We offer treatments to improve your intimacy and sexual health. Your care begins with an initial assessment and a physical to understand your symptoms and beliefs about sex, as well as your goals for sexual fulfillment Your case is then privately reviewed by an interdisciplinary team to ensure you receive the best care plan with the most advanced options available. At Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, you are never alone. We built our Sexual Health and Healing program around you. Our team is dedicated to supporting you from the very first assessment through supportive therapies, treatment or surgery, and you are assigned a nurse to help you navigate every step of the way. Ask your physician for a referral or call to make an appointment

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Common Concerns

In America, more than 46% of cancer patients and survivors reported sexual health concerns, and unfortunately too many people suffer in silence. In fact, more than 71% of cancer survivors reported that they receive “no care” for sexual dysfunction challenges. There are medications, therapy, and clinical services available for most any cancer-related sexual concern including genital or rectal pain, discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse, erectile dysfunction (trouble getting and keeping an erection), difficulty orgasming, loss of sexual interest, vaginal bleeding, spotting or spasms, pain following chemo, radiation therapy, brachytherapy or pelvic floor surgery.

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Prevention

Having cancer can increase your likelihood of getting an infection due to a weakened immune system. This is important to understand so that you are working with your body, not against it. To prevent infections when having sex, practice safe sex with a condom or dental dam if you are having sex with more than 1 person and always practice good personal hygiene.

Treatment

Your care team will carefully consider and discuss treatment options that are right for you based on the type of symptoms presented, your assessment and medical history, lifestyle, and individual resources.


Surgery

Many surgical interventions are available. This can range from minimally-invasive pelvic floor surgery done laparoscopically or robot-assisted, to major surgery such as a complete penile implant.


Brachytherapy and Radiation Therapy

High-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, are used to kill cancer cells directly. We also have expertise in brachytherapy, which is high-dose radiation therapy that delivers radiation precisely to the tumor bed. This approach spares healthy tissue and minimizes the after effects of the radiation.


Chemotherapy

Intravenous and/or oral medication that attacks and kills cancer cells in the body.


Targeted Therapy

Therapy focused on blocking the growth and spread of cancer cells.


Hormone Therapy

Therapy designed to block the effects of hormones that are stimulating cancer cell growth. We also offer non-hormonal therapy alternatives. 

Photo Credit: Nick Merrick

Our Approach

There’s nobody quite like you. That’s why your cancer care plan should be completely built around you. Our patient-centric approach will tailor treatment to your needs and offer the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. These include cancer-specific trials, as well as general trials based on our patient’s individual molecular and genetic makeup.

Our interdisciplinary team considers the right care plan from multiple perspectives, often consulting with internal experts to gather up-to-the-moment insight on treatment options.  

Then, your course of treatment will be designed to suit your exact personal medical needs, using medicine to do the most good while remaining minimally invasive. That means we’re focused not just on eradicating the disease, but on preserving your quality of life before, during, and after your treatment.

We are here to help you heal as a whole person.  Wherever your care path leads, you can be sure our entire team will be there with you every step of the way.

When I work with patients, I see the whole patient in the context of their life.  I work to develop mutual trust and communication so each patient can reach their personal goals for cancer care or cancer cure in a way that fits with their quality of life. I also strive to provide tailored, comprehensive care as part of their healing team.”

George J.S. Kallingal, MD
Urologic Surgical Oncology
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Please contact us to for more information about other related cancers and conditions including:

  • Breast
  • Cervical
  • Fallopian
  • Gestational Trophoblastic Disease
  • Ovarian
  • Peritoneal
  • Prostate
  • Uterine
  • Testes
  • Vaginal
  • Vulvar

Patient Testimonials

“Having a doctor like Dr. Wendt was really a blessing for me, my husband, and for our family.”

“The entire team that has been taking care of me since diagnosis has blown me away – they are so super caring.”

Continuing Support

Wherever your individual care plan takes you, we’ll work closely with you to understand your preferences, and your needs – and be sure any additional support is ready when you need it, including:

  • Dietary or nutrition advisors, providing special focus and attention for chemo patients
  • Genetic counselors to help you understand your risk factors
  • Social workers dedicated to easing your emotional burdens and helping with community benefits
  • Financial counselors to help you understand the financial aspect and work with you to reduce the burden when possible
  • Specialty pharmacy liaisons who help authorize your prescriptions and educate you on managing side effects and taking your medicine properly
  • Nurse navigators to help guide you throughout the cancer institute, every step of the way
  • Physical and rehabilitation therapists who provide integrated care alongside your primary care plan

Sexual Health Men Cancer Specialist

George Kallingal, MD

Phoenix, AZ

Sexual Health Women Cancer Specialist

Nicole Afuape, MD

Phoenix, AZ