Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Your sex life and bladder cancer

Men and women discussing bladder cancer

This page tells you about sex after treatment for bladder cancer. You can find information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

For men

If you have your bladder removed, your prostate will be removed as well. During this operation the nerves that control erection can be damaged. This means you may not be able to get an erection after your operation. Having your prostate removed also means you cannot ejaculate, so your orgasms will be dry. Radiotherapy to the bladder area can also cause erection problems for some men.

There are several options to help you get an erection. These include drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra) or other similar drugs. There are also injections or pellets that go into the penis itself. Another alternative is a vacuum pump that draws blood into the penis to stiffen it. Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse if you would like to try any of these.

For women

Often the operation to remove your bladder and urethra can shorten or narrow your vagina. You may need to use small cone shaped dilators to stretch the vagina. Talk to your surgeon or specialist nurse beforehand if this is a concern for you. Radiotherapy can sometimes cause vaginal dryness and vaginal shrinking. Gels and creams are available to help reduce vaginal dryness. And dilators can help to stretch the vagina. Your specialist nurse can advise you about this.

There is information about how cancer can affect your sexuality and sex life in the coping with cancer section.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Living bladder cancer section.

 

 

Surgery for men

If you have your bladder removed, your prostate gland will be removed as well. This is because the prostate gland is a place that the cancer can sometimes come back. During this operation, the nerves that control erection can be damaged, so you may not be able to get an erection after your operation. If you have nerve damage there are several options to help you get an erection. One option is drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra) or apomorphine and others. You can ask your doctor if you would like to try this type of treatment.

Other options for getting an erection include injections or pellets that go into the penis itself. Or there are vacuum pumps that draw blood into the penis to stiffen it, and give a normal erection. There is information on all these treatments in our section about sex and cancer for men.

If you have a continent urinary diversion or bladder reconstruction, it may be possible to avoid damaging the nerves that control erections. But even if you have one of these operations, you may still need medicines to get an erection. You can ask your surgeon about this when you are discussing the different types of surgery before your operation.

Having your prostate removed means you will not be able to ejaculate, even if you can get an erection. Your orgasms will be dry. 

Having a stoma can affect the way you feel about yourself. And this may affect how you feel about having sex. There is information about how cancer can affect your body image in our section about sex and sexuality after cancer.

 

Surgery for women

After surgery to remove your bladder sex may feel different due to damage to the nerves in the area. The operation to remove your urethra can also narrow or shorten your vagina. You can talk to your surgeon about this before your operation. If the surgeons know this is important for you, they can try to change the vagina as little as possible.

If surgery has affected your vagina, it may help to use dilators afterwards to stretch it and keep it open. Dilators are plastic, cone shaped objects. They come in various sizes. You use them every day, for a few minutes. You start by putting in the one that goes in most easily first. Over a few weeks, you gradually use a larger size to stretch your vagina. Sex will do this too, but you may not feel like sex soon after your operation. There is information about using dilators in the section on sex and cancer for women.

Getting used to having a stoma can make a difference to the way you feel about yourself and this may also affect your sex life. There is information about how cancer can affect how you see yourself in our section on sex and sexuality after cancer.

 

Radiotherapy for men

Radiotherapy for bladder cancer can sometimes cause problems with sex. Some men may find they can't get an erection afterwards. Or they may find that their erections are not as strong as they used to be after they have been treated. There is information about treatments for lack of erection in our section about sex and cancer for men.

 

Radiotherapy for women

Women may find they have vaginal dryness after radiotherapy to the pelvis. There are gels and creams available to help with vaginal dryness. Your specialist nurse can advise you about this. Some women may also have shortening or narrowing of the vagina. Using vaginal dilators or having regular sex can help. There is information about how to deal with sexual problems for women after radiotherapy in our coping with cancer section.

 

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy into the bladder does not usually cause any long term problems with sex. 

Chemotherapy into the bloodstream can make you very tired and can lower interest in sex for a while. Women who have not already had their menopause may find they begin it early, which can lower sex drive and lead to vaginal dryness. There is information about coping with menopausal symptoms in the coping with cancer section.

 

BCG

BCG into the bladder does not usually cause any long term effects on your sex life.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 4 out of 5 based on 14 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 25 October 2013