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Coping with a low sex drive

Cancer and its treatment can make you lose interest in having sex.

Your sex drive might be lower because of:

  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • anxiety about having cancer
  • loss of confidence and self esteem
  • side effects from other treatments such as cancer drugs
  • changes in the male sex hormones

Many of these problems will disappear once your treatment finishes and your desire for sex will go back to normal. But it may take a bit of time, so don’t worry too much if you don’t feel like having sex for a while.

If you’re in a relationship it will be important to talk about this with your partner. Sometimes if you lose your interest in sex it stops you making the effort to enjoy other physical contact with your partner. This can be very difficult for you both.

Even though you don’t feel like having sex, it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy kissing, cuddling and being close to your partner. Kissing and touching can be very comforting and relaxing, as long as you are both clear about how far you’re expecting to go.

It may be helpful (or necessary) to put intercourse on hold for a while and focus on showing each other affection in other ways. But some people find that even though they don’t feel like having sex, once they become physical with a partner or pleasure themselves, they do become aroused. It can help to be open to this. It might also help to talk things through with a counsellor or therapist.

If you have advanced cancer

Having advanced cancer means that your cancer can not be cured. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are terminally ill. Whatever your situation, you will still have needs and desires. If you do not feel like having sexual intercourse, you might still have sexual feelings, even if you are very ill.

If your cancer is advanced you might have an even stronger need for intimacy in your life than before you had cancer. Physical closeness, sharing your feelings and touching might become very important.

Knowing your cancer can not be cured can bring up some very strong emotions for you. This can be very difficult to cope with, especially if you are single and do not have the support of a caring partner. It might help to talk to someone else about how you are feeling.

Help and support

If you’re at all worried about anything to do with your sex life and sexuality you may want to talk through how you’re feeling with a counsellor or therapist. Or you could contact some of the organisations that deal with relationships.

You can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Last reviewed: 
10 Jul 2015
  • Management of erectile dysfunction - EUA guidelines on male sexual dysfunction 2015 (NICE IPG 174)

  • Man cancer sex

    Katz, A (2010) 

    Hygeia Media

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