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Chemotherapy and men's sexuality

Some cancer treatments (including chemotherapy) can cause changes to your sex life.

How chemotherapy affects sex

Having chemotherapy might affect your sex life in different ways.  

Treatment can cause side effects that might make you feel less like sex. For example, you might be very tired, feel sick or have a sore mouth. 

Chemotherapy could affect the way you feel about yourself. For example, if you have hair loss or thinning. You might be more sensitive or less sensitive to touch than usual.

Some chemotherapy drugs can also make you infertile. 

Chemotherapy and contraception

A female partner should avoid becoming pregnant as the chemotherapy drugs could harm the baby. You should use reliable contraception to avoid pregnancy during treatment and for a period of time afterwards. The exact time depends on the drug. Ask your doctor, nurse of pharmacist about this.

Unknown risk of cancer drugs

It is not known for sure whether or not chemotherapy drugs can be passed on through semen or secretions from the vagina. Because of this some doctors advise people to use a barrier method (such as condoms, femidoms or dental dams) if you have sex during treatment. This applies to vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Generally, doctors advise a barrier method only for the time you are actually having the treatment and for about a week after your treatment.

Advice like this can be worrying, but this does not mean that you have to avoid being intimate with your partner. You can still have close contact with your partner and continue to enjoy sex.

Last reviewed: 
30 Jul 2018
  • Guidelines on Male Sexual Dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation
    K Hatzimouratidis and others
    European Association of Urology, 2015

  • Man cancer sex

    A Katz 

    Hygeia Media, 2010

  • Cryostorage of immature and mature human testis tissue to preserve spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs): a systematic review of current experiences toward clinical applications

    N P Zarandi and others

    Stem cells and cloning: Advances and Applications. 2018, Volume 11, pages 23-38

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