The effects of chemotherapy on your sex life
Some people carry on with their sex lives as normal during chemotherapy treatment. Other folk find that the treatment changes how they feel both emotionally and physically.
Most changes are simple and won’t last for any length of time. Your sex life will also not be permanently affected.
Chemotherapy very seldom causes erectile dysfunction, though it may affect the desire for sexual activity in both men and women having chemo treatment. Sometimes you may feel that you are just too tired, not strong enough to be very active, not in the right mood, or maybe a little anxious.
If your libido lies low for a while, remember that there are other ways to show affection in an intimate relationship – like kissing or cuddling, or just doing things together to stay close.
Communicating with your partner to convey how you feel, is also most important.
How chemotherapy can affect a man’s sexuality
Some men are able to lead normal sex lives during chemotherapy treatment, while some go through changes, but return to normal after treatment is completed. Much, however, depends of the type of chemo you receive, and how strong the dosage is.
- High dosages of chemo are more likely to affect your sex life by leading to a loss of sex drive.
- You may feel tired and sick which will result in less interest in sexual activity for a while.
- Chemo treatment may also result in lower testosterone which can negatively affect fertility.
- There are also times when chemotherapy may damage the nerves that control erections, which can lead to a measure of erectile dysfunction.
- The emotional effects of cancer and the treatment involved can also seriously hamper your sex life. Some men worry that they may never be able to have sex again, or may not be able to father children. These worries are often seen by men as a direct threat to their manhood, and the related anxiety can seriously lower libido, and the ability to have an erection.
Most of these side effects are temporary, and help is available if you want to continue intimacy with your partner. Alternately, if you have a close relationship with your partner, you can discuss things in a loving manner, and agree to wait it out until things are back to normal.
The way chemo treatment may affect a woman’s sexuality
Some women find that chemo does not affect their sex lives, and those that may be affected, report that things go back to normal after treatment. Depending on the part of the body which is being treated with chemotherapy, the sexual side effect, may be more serious and difficult to manage.
- There are some types of chemotherapy which can lead to changes in the lining of the vagina that could make vaginal sex more prone to injuries. Bacteria which live in the skin or in the genital tract may be introduced into your bloodstream. Because your immune system is low, it can lead to serious infections. If you are being treated with chemo that is targeted at the genital tract, your doctor may advise that you avoid sexual intercourse for the time being.
- If chemotherapy has led to a low platelet blood count, intercourse may lead to bleeding, which could become severe.
- If you are able to conceive, a reliable method of birth control should be used. Doctors often recommend a high-quality condom to prevent falling pregnant. Some research has shown that chemotherapy drugs may be passed on through semen or vaginal secretions if you have sex during treatment. Traces of these drugs can land up in the reproduction system, and potentially land up in the bloodstream of a foetus, should you conceive. However, it is agreed that more research on this particular issue is needed.
There is no medical reason to stop having sex during chemo, but if you are unsure of anything, speak to your doctor. The chemo drugs will have no long-term effects on your sex performance or enjoyment.
And most important – cancer cannot be passed on to a partner during sex.
We can help!
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