Dr. Nicola Finley (Internist)
Mindfulness and Sexual Wellness for Cancer Survivors
We all know someone who is a cancer survivor - maybe a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or yourself. For many cancer survivors, life after cancer is different than before they had cancer. It’s a new normal that impacts many aspects of their lives - perhaps their mental health, their view on their life’s purpose, or dealing with complications from cancer or from cancer treatment, including changes to their skin. As a result, wellness is an important avenue that many cancer survivors embrace. A wellness tool that can aid in thriving after cancer is mindfulness. Mindfulness is bringing your attention to the present experience without judgment. Research studies show that mindfulness can help with pain, stress, depression, and anxiety, which are issues that cancer survivors may encounter. Also, mindfulness can help with another issue that cancer survivors may face - a new normal with their sex life.
Sexual well-being is an important part of wellness that is often overlooked in cancer survivors. There are often many factors that can cause challenges in a person’s sex life, and some of those factors can be positively impacted by practicing mindfulness. For women, mindfulness has been shown to help with low libido and painful sex. For men, mindfulness has been shown to help with premature ejaculation and situational erectile dysfunction. You may be wondering how does mindfulness impact sexual wellness. Well, there are a few theories. Cultivating a mindfulness practice can encourage a person to focus on pleasurable body sensations, as opposed to being distracted during intimacy. In addition, mindfulness can help overcome depression and anxiety, which can affect sexual satisfaction.
"Cultivating a mindfulness practice can encourage a person to focus on pleasurable body sensations, as opposed to being distracted during intimacy."
Especially for women, I have found that there are not enough avenues for women to nurture their own sexual wellbeing. To empower women, I will be leading a women’s sexual wellness retreat with a holistic approach in April 2022 at Six Senses Ibiza for all women (not specifically for cancer survivors). You can learn more about “The Pleasure Principles – a journey of women’s sexual wellness” here.
Now, let’s circle back around to cancer survivors. Some cancer survivors may minimize their sexual concerns, as they may feel that intimacy is not as important after facing cancer. Instead, we should invite them to view sexual well-being as an integral part of wellness, and one tool to help with sexual satisfaction after cancer is mindfulness. Mindfulness fosters self-kindness, which is a valuable skill to continually practice as part of self-care.