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About sex and chemotherapy

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This page gives general information about how chemotherapy may affect your sex life. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

About sex and chemotherapy

Chemotherapy affects everyone differently. Some people carry on with their sex lives as normal during their treatment. Others find their treatment interferes with how they feel emotionally or physically. This may mean you don’t feel able or want to have sex.

The changes to your sex life don't usually last long. There's no medical reason to stop having sex during chemotherapy. The drugs won't have any long term physical effects on your performance or enjoyment of sex. They won't affect your partner either. Cancer can't be passed on to your partner during sex.

Contraception

It is important to use reliable contraception during treatment. Getting pregnant while either partner is having chemotherapy is not advisable because the drugs may harm the baby.

Even if you or your partner are taking the pill, you should use condoms as an extra safeguard. Using condoms protects your partner from the possible risk that chemicals from the chemotherapy may be in your bodily fluids.

You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Sex and Chemotherapy section.

 

Effects of chemo on your sex life

Chemotherapy affects everyone differently. Some people carry on with their sex lives as normal during their treatment. Others find their treatment interferes with how they feel emotionally or physically. This section describes the possible effects of treatment on your sex life.

Some changes are simple and temporary and won't affect your sex life permanently. Sometimes you may feel

  • Too tired
  • Not strong enough to be very active
  • Sick or sore
  • Not in the mood
  • Anxious or low

Your anxiety may not seem related to sex. For example, you may be worried about

  • The cancer and how your treatment is going
  • How your family are coping with your illness
  • Money

These things can cause stress. When you feel stressed, your interest in sex may be affected.

You may find the information in these sections helpful in our coping with cancer section

Remember – the changes to your sex life don't usually last long. There's no medical reason to stop having sex during chemotherapy. The drugs won't have any long term physical effects on your performance or enjoyment of sex. They won't affect your partner either. Cancer can't be passed on to your partner during sex.

 

Contraception

It is important to use reliable contraception during treatment. Getting pregnant while either partner is having chemotherapy is not advisable because the drugs may harm the baby.

Even if you or your partner are taking the pill, you should use a condom as an extra safeguard. Using condoms protects your partner from the possible risk that chemicals from the chemotherapy may be in your bodily fluids. Doctors don't think that this is likely, but it has been suggested that chemotherapy can get into vaginal fluids. So as doctors don't know for sure, they advise using a condom during treatment and for a week or so afterwards.

If you have, or have had, breast cancer your doctor may advise you not to take the contraceptive pill because the cancer may be affected by the hormones it contains. 

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Updated: 18 April 2013