Sex and cancer treatment

Here’s what you need to know about sex and cancer treatment, and the changes you might experience physically or emotionally.

Having cancer doesn’t stop you being interested in sex. Sure, there might be times when you’re not feeling sexy in the slightest. And there might be times when you’re sick or exhausted and sex is the last thing on your mind.

But on the days when you’re feeling OK, you might find that sex creeps into your mind. It’s only natural. And the good news is that, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you’re fine to have sex. (Remember that the legal age to have sex in the UK is 16 for you and your partner, though.)

Can I have sex whilst on chemotherapy?

If you’re having penetrative sex and you or your partner is having chemo, always use a condom – even for oral sex and even if you’re using other contraception. That’s because it’s possible for men and women to pass on chemicals from chemo drugs during sex. So stay safe and check with your doctor or nurse if there are any other precautions you should take.

So keep a pack of condoms handy – and use them for at least a couple of weeks after treatment. They’ll prevent pregnancies and stop you picking up anything nasty, too.

Losing interest in sex whilst on chemotherapy

This is common and can happen for lots of reasons, including hormonal changes, tiredness, anxiety and just not feeling great about yourself. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, you might find your confidence takes a hit, so you feel less comfortable being physically intimate with people.

Losing interest in sex can be a side effect of radiotherapy and certain drugs too. Often once your treatment is over you’ll start to feel like having sex again. But if you’re still not as interested in sex as you were a while after treatment, it can be helpful to talk to a psychologist or counsellor.

Top tip: Try and talk to your partner. If you’re in a relationship and lose interest in sex, try and talk to your partner to help them understand what’s going on. Reassure them that they’ve not done anything wrong. Let them know what you’re going through. Listen to what they’re thinking.

You might be feeling pretty unsexy but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped finding you attractive, so try not to push them away. And remember there’s plenty you can do to enjoy each other’s company without having sex.

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