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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Women, Cancer and Sexuality: Dr. Marianne Marchese shows how naturopathic medicine can offer support

Sep 02, 2013 12:16PM ● By Marianne Marchese, NMD

When a woman is diagnosed with cancer, she may only be concerned with treatment and survival. Later, she may realize that cancer and its treatments can have lifelong effects, especially in the area of sex and sexuality. The difference is that sex is thought of as an activity. Sexuality is more about the way we feel about ourself, and is linked to intimacy or our need for caring, closeness and touch.

Some of these changes are effects of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and some result from just having cancer, which can take a physical and mental/emotional toll. Women might say they “feel like damaged goods,” “all my parts are gone,” and “who would want to be with me now?” This mental/emotional aspect should be addressed with a counselor skilled in cancer’s effect on sexuality.

Naturopathic medicine can offer support through cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, combatting side effects that interfere with sex and sexuality. There are botanical medicines, amino acids, antioxidants, homeopathic remedies, nutritional support and bio-identical hormones.

Be careful with over-the-counter supplements and self-treatment, because many natural treatments can interfere with chemotherapy and radiation, making it less effective. Even simple herbal medicines such as garlic, gingko biloba, St John’s wort, echinacea and soy can interact with radiation, chemotherapy and cancer medications. It is important to work with a naturopathic doctor skilled in cancer care.

Feelings about sexuality affect self-image and relationships with others, yet patients and doctors often do not talk about the effects of cancer treatment on a woman’s sex life or how she can address problems she’s having. There is help for those having sexual problems after cancer treatment, and many natural treatment options are available.

Remember, natural doesn’t always mean safe, more is not necessarily better, don’t be your own doctor, and focus on healing the constitution of your mind, body and spirit.

Dr. Marchese is a naturopathic physician in Phoenix who focuses on women’s health, cancer care and hormones. She is the author of the book, 8 Weeks to Women’s Wellness. For more information, visit and


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