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Identity and body image

Our Nurse Adviser

020 7923 5475

Our Nurse Advisers offer confidential information and support for anyone affected by any aspect of ovarian cancer.

Dealing with an altered body image can be particularly difficult after an ovarian cancer diagnosis. You may have surgical scars, or now have a stoma, you may have experienced a surgical menopause, have gained or lost weight during your chemotherapy or be facing the temporary loss of your hair.

Meeting other women who have experienced this can be helpful. You might want to think about finding a support group near you, attending a support event or reading about other women's experiences.

More support:

  • Your CNS will continue to support you to get used to this new way of life.
  • Some oncology units have volunteers who can give advice about makeup, skincare and scarves. Look Good Feel Better offers makeup workshops and resources to women after treatment.

Relationships with family, friends and partners

family and friendsA diagnosis of cancer can change how you feel about yourself and it can have an impact on your relationships. Some people might find that it brings them closer to the people around them, while others might find their relationships are more strained.

Your friends and family may find your diagnosis particularly hard to deal with. Some people appear to be surrounded by family and friends but still feel lonely, while others have one close friend and feel well supported and cared for.

Relationships with partners may also be affected, and these changes might be both positive and negative. You might find that your relationship is strengthened as you and your partner come to terms with your diagnosis together, or your partner may not know what to say and may be feeling many of the emotions you are.

Your family and friends may benefit from getting support to cope with your diagnosis, and you may feel better to know they are supported. Target Ovarian Cancer and your CNS can provide support for family, friends and carers, so ask them to get in touch. 

You may also be worried that your sister, daughter or granddaughter may be at risk of ovarian cancer. Find out more on our ‘ovarian cancer in families’ pages.

Sex and intimacy 

With a partner

Sex might be the last thing on your mind if you’ve just received your diagnosis. For some women though, having sex during this time can help them feel cared for, loved and secure. Your response will be very personal. Physical contact with a partner will release certain chemicals in your brain and make you feel better, so whether it’s a cuddle, a kiss or more, it might help you to combat the stress you are trying to cope with.

For many women, having sex again after treatment is a sign that life is getting back to normal. But it may require a bit more time and effort than it did before your cancer treatment. You may have to reassure your partner that you want to try sex or touch each other intimately. Sex can help us feel connected to our partner so, if it’s something you feel you want, it is worth having a go.

Remember that neither you nor your partner’s sexual activity caused your ovarian cancer, having sex will not make it worse and your partner can’t catch it.

On your own

We can make ourselves feel good by touching and taking pleasure from our bodies. There is nothing wrong with this at any time of our life and when you are living with cancer, this may help you cope. It may also help you feel that you 'own' your body. After having had doctors examining you, touching yourself may be comforting and help you reconnect with your body.

If there is a problem

Sometimes women have difficulties having sex again. This is not unusual and your CNS will be happy to speak to you about any concerns that you might have. It may be that you can solve the problem by talking to a sex therapist (usually a specially trained psychologist) through your local NHS. Ask your CNS or GP to refer you. Don’t be shy; sex is an important area of our lives. It will help both you and your partner move past what you have been through and give you a sense of being a team again.

If you are experiencing vaginal dryness or painful sex following treatment, you may benefit from using a lubricant to improve moistness. Your CNS will be able to give you more advice and information about this, and you should be able to find a large variety of lubricants on the shelves of the larger chemists. 

Listen to our Ovarian cancer, sex and intimacy podcast, where we answer your questions, talk about what physical and emotional issues you may face and discuss how you can seek help and support.

Find out more

What happens next

This content is primarily taken from What happens next? Our expert guide answers your questions following a diagnosis, providing information on everything from treatment to taking care of yourself, and advice on where to find support in the months ahead.

The information on this page is approved by the Information Standard scheme to ensure that it provides accurate and high-quality information.

Information standrads

Last reviewed: November 2016
Next review: October 2019