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Ask the Expert: Sexuality and Intimacy with Erica Marchand, Ph.D.

Erica Marchand, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist specializing in sex therapy and


Erica Marchand, Ph.D.

relationship concerns, and a project scientist at UCLA Center for Cancer Prevention & Control Research. On Friday, February 19th she will present a Sexuality & Intimacy Workshop at the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara. For those who can’t make it to the workshop, Dr. Marchand was kind enough to provide the following tips for our readers.


Sex and intimacy are parts of life that can be disrupted by cancer. When you’re sick, you don’t feel sexy, and after cancer many people feel and function differently than they did before. The experience of cancer can change existing relationships or add new complexity to dating. If it’s important to you, maintaining or reconnecting with your sexuality in the face of cancer is possible. Here are some tips to achieve that:

  •  Broaden your definition of intimacy. You may be accustomed to swinging from the chandeliers, but if that’s not possible right now, can you identify types of physical intimacy that would feel good? It could be anything from a long hug to a foot massage to more sensual or sexual activities.
  • Talk to your partner about your needs and desires, and ask about theirs. See if you can come to mutual understanding of the kinds of intimacy you want right now.
  • Practice radical self-love. You’re been through a lot. The last thing you need is self-criticism about how your body looks or functions. Talk to yourself as you would a beloved partner or friend.
  • If you are unhappy with how your sex drive or sexual functioning has changed, try to identify the causes and address them. Help is available for many different concerns, but you may have to speak up and ask your doctor, or do some research on your own.
  • If you value intimacy with your partner but find that you’re rarely “in the mood,” consider “starting from neutral” — making a conscious decision to engage in sexual activity and allowing desire and arousal to build along the way.
  •  Many people who are dating again after cancer find themselves self-conscious or worried about telling potential dating partners. If this is you, try to think of cancer as one facet of your life experience, rather than the defining thing about you. Remember that you are assessing other people too, to find a good match, rather than thinking too much about how others might assess you. If you’re wondering when to tell dating partners about your cancer, you might wait until you feel some level of “friendship and attraction” before broaching the subject.
  •  Identify things that you love about your body and focus on those.

Learn aboutupcoming educational and support programs offered by the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara on our calendar page.

Make a difference for people with cancer and their loved ones by making a donation to the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara.

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