‘I started to feel incredibly anxious’: Cancer survivor opens up about impact of illness on sex life

A father-of-four in remission from cancer has spoken out about the impact the illness had on his sex life.

Sean Baker, 54, of Woodside, Croydon, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, just before he turned 50. 

Now in remission, Mr Baker is encouraging others affected by cancer to have open conversations about the impact of their diagnosis.

New figures released by Macmillan Cancer Support found that one in five people with cancer in London – equivalent to about 55,600 people – have serious concerns about sex, loss of libido or fertility as a result of their diagnosis or treatment.

Mr Baker said: “After I finished treatment, I was, of course, so happy to be alive, but I was really worried about how my diagnosis would impact my sex life.”

Among all people with cancer in London, one in four struggle with the physical effects of treatment on their ability to be intimate, one in eight feel less confident about themselves and one in 10 are concerned about their appearance or desirability. 

Mr Baker said: “I knew that the treatment I had may cause erectile dysfunction, but when the first two prescriptions from my doctor didn’t help at all, I started to feel incredibly anxious.”

Mr Baker during cancer treatment (Picture: Macmillan)

Across the UK, only two in five of those who want help with serious concerns about sex or fertility have had any support, potentially leaving thousands of people with cancer in London trying to manage these issues themselves.

Macmillan has warned of the potential impact this is having on people’s well-being, as further data shows more than one in 13 people with cancer in London are worried about the negative impact of sex or fertility issues on their relationship with their partner, including feeling distanced, growing apart or feeling unsupported.

Mr Baker said: “I kept the conversation around sex really open with my doctor and that was so helpful for me as it meant we tried another dose of medicine, which worked wonders.

“A few months down the line and the erectile dysfunction was a lot better. Fair to say that that definitely boosted my mood.”

Mr Baker has shared his story after MacMillan launched a new partnership with the UK’s leading sexual wellness brand, Lovehoney.

The partnership – a first of its kind for both organisations – aims to raise awareness of the support available, by sharing stories from people affected by cancer across the UK as part of a new YouTube series.

As part of the partnership, Macmillan has also launched a new sex and cancer hub on its website.

Tracey Palmer, Macmillan information and support manager at Whittington Health NHS Trust, said: “We need to start talking more about sex and the very real impact cancer can have on people’s sexual well-being and relationships. 

“No question or conversation is too big, too small or too personal on our confidential support line or our online community. Nobody should face the impact of a cancer diagnosis alone, we are here every step of the way.”

To find out more about sex and cancer, and to access support visit the Macmillan website

Pictured top: Sean Baker (Picture: Macmillan)

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