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Sex on Chemo

Published: 22 Mar 2017

Everything you want to know (but were too polite to ask)!

Cancer is a game-changer, in so many ways; from your eating and sleeping habits, to your energy levels and general wellbeing. Some of these changes are accompanied by a lot of information and literature from medical staff – others are less documented.

One of the topics that can sometimes be difficult to bring up with your support team is sex. After all, we don’t tend to talk about intimacy with complete strangers when we’re at full health, so why would being diagnosed with cancer suddenly make it easier?

 

To help dispel the taboo around this subject, we want to tackle some of the most commonly asked questions about having sex when you’re going through chemotherapy…

Can I have sex on chemo?

The short answer in most cases is yes – if you want to. However, many women and men simply don’t feel like getting intimate with their partner. Chemotherapy treatment can be gruelling, which in turn can affect your libido. Also, the physical changes your body goes through, such as hair loss and bruising, can impact your body image and self-esteem.

Taking these things into consideration, it’s perfectly natural to not feel like having sex, and you shouldn’t worry if your lovemaking takes a backseat while you fight cancer. However, if you do find yourself experiencing the urge, then feel free to embrace it!

That being said, there are certain situations in which you should consult your physician before embarking on sexual activity. For example, if you are undergoing any kind of treatment for cancer affecting your reproductive organs, such as cervical cancer or ovarian cancer. If you are unsure, talk to a medical professional in confidence first. 

Is it safe for my partner?

If you choose to have sex whilst undergoing chemotherapy, it is advised that you use a condom. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, to ensure that your partner’s penis does not come into direct contact with your vagina. The reason for this is that your body gets rid of chemo toxins through the fluid it produces, including vaginal secretions. This can potentially irritate the penis.

Secondly, to act as a form of contraception. Getting pregnant while on chemo can potentially compromise your treatment – and even if your doctor says it is safe to proceed, you may still feel uncomfortable doing so.

If I don’t feel like having sex, should I feel guilty? 

The most important thing to understand when you’re fighting cancer – whether you’re thinking about sex, work, family, money, or anything else – is never to feel guilty. Emotionally and physically you’re on a rollercoaster, so you need to listen to your body and mind, and do whatever feels best for you.

If your partner loves and cares for you then they won’t pressure you into being intimate when you are not feeling ready. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a kiss, a hug, or reassurance instead – their job is to be there for you and support you in whatever you need.