How to Help Your Patients Navigate Sex After Cancer Treatment

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’re talking all about SEX on the podcast!

And who better to discuss sex & intimacy after cancer treatment, than Drs. Alexandra Hill & Ijeoma Nwankpa?  Alex & Ijeoma are both board certified clinical specialists in women’s health physical therapy & have teamed up to present an incredible APTA-CSM session called Sexual Survivorship: Navigating Sex after Cancer Treatment.

If there’s one thing that drives me insane about cancer survivorship, it’s that our patients are still told “you should just be happy to be alive.”

That baloney belongs in 1950, NOT 2023.

Peeing, pooping, and sex are activities of daily living. We should be addressing these just like we do for every other ADL.

But there are still many reasons that PT’s are uncomfortable having these very important conversations with their patients.

Enough is enough.  It’s time to stop ignoring the elephant in the room.  

Cancer survivors can face many issues around sex & intimacy after cancer treatment.

Patients can experience a tremendous variety of pelvic floor dysfunction after cancer and cancer treatment. Some common pelvic floor dysfunctions include pain due to hormonal suppression, medically-induced menopause, vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, atrophy, vaginal stenosis after XRT, hardness, scar tissue, & limited ROM.

Dr. Nwankpa also notes that many of these issues are caused by or exacerbated by orthopedic issues, which is totally within our wheelhouse as physical therapists, regardless of if you’re a pelvic floor PT or not.

PTs actually get a lot wrong about sex after cancer treatment.

Sometimes we think that pelvic floor symptoms will improve the farther from treatment they are.  Wrong!

We can also forget that sex is not a purely physical experience. In fact, there’s a lot of emotional and mental aspects of sex that we often forget about or even ignore.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is not limited to gynecological cancers 

Patients may experience pelvic floor dysfunction after treatment for gynecological cancers, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, anal cancer, & testicular cancer  due to local treatment effects.   

However, patients may also experience function as a result of more systemic treatments, including hormonal therapies for breast cancer. 

In addition, patients may also have pre-existing pelvic floor dysfunction that is exacerbated by cancer and its treatments.

Catch Alex & Ijeoma at CSM!

Make sure to mark your calendars for their CSM session, Sexual Survivorship: Navigating Sex after Cancer Treatment on Thursday, February 23 at 8am.  You don’t want to miss it!

Until next time, this is Elise with TheOncoPT. And remember you are exactly the physical therapist that your patients with cancer need. So let’s get to work.

About Dr. Alexandra Hill, PT

I earned my Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree at the University of Florida and completed a Women’s Health Physical Therapy Residency at Duke University. Since becoming a physical therapist in 2014, I have specialized in working with all folks experiencing pelvic health, oncology, and lymphedema-related conditions. I am passionate about helping people understand and take charge of their symptoms to live confidently. In my free time, I love hiking and traveling.

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About Dr. Ijeoma Nwankpa, PT

Ijeoma is a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is one of few in the metro Dallas – Fort Worth area that is an American Board of Physical Therapy Certified Specialist in Women/ Men Pelvic Health (WCS), Certified Lymphedema Physical Therapist (CLT), trained Sexuality Counselor/ Coach and is a Certified Dry Needling Therapist (CIDN).

She is the owner of the Center of Pelvic Excellence Physical Therapy & Wellness LLC.  (COPE PT), where she provides inclusive compassionate care, knowledge and education on pelvic health, sexual health, oncology and lymphedema to aid in individual optimal recovery.

She participates in several outreach organizations and charities. She is a wife and mother. She enjoys spending quality time with her family, cooking , traveling, reading and meeting new people. 

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