Your sex life with mouth and oropharyngeal cancer

Treatment for mouth and oropharyngeal cancer can change the way you feel about sex.

Changes to your appearance may make you feel less confident about sex. It might change the way you feel about yourself and how you think others see you.

Talking things through with your partner might help you both adjust to a new situation together. Things might feel a little less awkward.

How you might feel

Cancer can cause many different emotions such as fear and anger. These emotions might affect how you feel about sex. Your partner might also feel very strong emotions. 

It is very common to have difficulty with intimacy and sex after cancer treatment. You can consider:

  • talking things through with your partner 
  • talking to your doctor or specialist nurse
  • getting your GP to refer you to a counsellor 

Your doctor or nurse might be able to provide some advice or they can suggest where you can find support.  


Speech or communication difficulties might affect how you feel about sex. It might feel like more effort than before and it might change some of the spontaneous moments you and your partner are used to. 

Eye contact and touch might be alternative ways to show feelings if speech is difficult. 


Some people's partners worry that they can catch cancer from others by kissing. But cancer can't be caught from somebody else. So you can reassure them. 

It is safe for you and your partner to kiss and have any type of physical contact that you feel comfortable with. 

You can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on 0808 800 4040, freephone Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser 
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

  • Oropharyngeal cancer: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary Guidelines

    H Mehanna and others

    The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 2016. Volume 130, supplement S2, pages S90-S96

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (10th edition)
    S Lister, J Hofland and H Grafton 
    Wiley Blackwell, 2020

Last reviewed: 
19 Oct 2021
Next review due: 
19 Oct 2024

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