Sex and Men With Cancer: Overview

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Chemotherapy (chemo) and sex

Most men getting chemo still have normal erections. But a few have problems. Erections and desire often drop right after getting chemo but return in a week or so.

Men who have had high doses of chemo followed by a stem cell transplant are more likely to have a long-lasting loss of testosterone. In some cases, testosterone replacement may be needed to regain desire and erections.

Chemo rarely affects ejaculation. But some drugs might damage the nerves that control it. The semen may shoot back into the bladder instead of out through the penis.

Other problems from chemo that may affect your sex life

If a man has had genital herpes or genital warts in the past, chemo might cause them to flare up again. If you have any signs of genital infection, see your doctor right away. Infections can be serious because chemo can weaken your immune system. This makes it harder for you to fight infections.

You’ll also want to avoid getting new infections from sex partners. If you’re having sex with someone you’re not sure about, practice safer sex. The safest way to have sex is to use condoms every time, from start to finish. Whether you have oral sex (using the mouth), anal sex (entering the rectum), or vaginal sex, condoms can lower your risk of sexual infections.

For more about safer sex, contact the American Sexual Health Association (see the “To learn more about other topics related to sex and cancer” section).

Last Medical Review: 08/28/2014
Last Revised: 09/23/2014