Sex and Men With Cancer -- Overview

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Keeping your sex life going despite cancer treatment

Be sure to ask your doctor or nurse these questions about having sex during and after treatment.

When will it be OK to have sex?

    Are there any types of sex I should avoid?

    What safety measures do I need to take, and for how long?

    What birth control is best for me and how long should I use it?

    How might each treatment affect my sex life?

Here are some things to keep in mind.

Learn as much as you can about how your cancer treatment can affect your sex life.

The first thing to do is talk with the members of your health care team about your sex life. You already may have asked about going back to work, eating, or pain. You have just as much right to know the facts about your sex life. When you know what to expect, you can plan how you might handle any problems that come up.

No matter what kind of treatment you have, you’ll still able to feel pleasure from touching.

Few cancer treatments damage the nerves and muscles that help you feel pleasure from touch or having orgasm. You may have to change the way it happens, but you still should be able to feel pleasure and be satisfied. The few men whose cancer treatments affect the brain or spinal cord may lose the ability to feel pleasure from sex.

Try to keep an open mind about ways to feel sexual pleasure.

Some couples have a narrow view of what is normal sex. If both partners cannot reach orgasm through sex as they’ve always done, they feel cheated. But during cancer treatment, there may be times when that kind of sex is not possible. Don’t give up just because your usual routine has been changed.

Try to have clear, 2-way talks about sex with your partner.

Keeping each other up to date with what’s going on is key. Tell your partner what you learn from your doctor. If you feel weak or tired and want your partner to take a more active role in touching you, say so. If some part of your body is tender or sore, guide your partner’s touches to create the most pleasure and avoid pain. Keep in mind that if one person has a sex problem, it affects both of you. It works best when your partner is part of the solution.

Boost your confidence.

Remind yourself about your good qualities. If you lose your hair, you might help yourself to look and feel better by shaving your head with an electric razor. Or try out different kinds of hats to find one you feel comfortable wearing. Or wear nothing on your head if that works for you. Eating right and getting exercise can help keep your body strong and your spirits up. Don’t forget to take time to relax – movies, hobbies, or getting outdoors. Do what makes you feel good about yourself. Talk with your cancer team if you think you are depressed or struggling, or if worry is causing problems.

Last Medical Review: 05/16/2013
Last Revised: 06/12/2013