Dating when you have cancer

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Dating and starting new relationships can be hard enough at the best of times! But after a cancer diagnosis, it may seem almost impossible.

You may be feeling sick, exhausted and self-conscious about changes in how you look, and going out and hooking up with new people can seem daunting.

But finding an opportunity to socialise and meet new people may boost your self-confidence and help you to feel like things are ‘normal’.

You may like to try a new fitness class, book club, art class or join a dating or friendship app. These activities might help you become more comfortable around new people, especially if you have physical signs of cancer such as hair loss, scars or an amputation.

Not every new relationship will work out, but that is also true without cancer in your life.  

When to tell your new partner/s

It can be difficult to tell people that you’ve had cancer or that you have had part of your body, like a breast or testicle, removed. Deciding when to tell a new partner about your diagnosis experience is a personal choice.

Here are some tips:

  • You may want to wait until you think the relationship could become serious before sharing the information.
  • Pick a time to talk to your partner when you are both relaxed.
  • Try practising what to say beforehand.
  • You could tell them about and show them any physical changes before any sexual activity so you can both get used to how that makes you feel.
  • Be honest about your concerns and encourage them to be honest about theirs.  

What about sex?

Cancer can affect your sexuality (including your body image and libido or desire) and your sex life.

Generally, unless your doctor tells you not to, there is no reason why you cannot have sex while receiving treatment for your cancer. But, depending on the treatment you are having, you may have to take particular precautions.

It’s also normal to feel ‘washed out’ and not have a lot of energy for many months, feel unattractive, or have treatment side effects that impact on your sex life. It’s important to talk to your partner about how you feel. You can still have a great relationship without having sex.

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