Sexuality for the Man With Cancer

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Chemotherapy also changes the way you look

The most obvious change caused by chemo will likely be hair loss. You may expect to lose the hair on your head, but other body hair, such as eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic hair are often affected, too. You may also lose weight and muscle mass if you have trouble eating. Your skin may get darker, become dry and flaky, or you may be very pale. You nails may become discolored or ridged. And you may also have an infusion (IV) catheter or port placed in your chest or arm.

Some physical changes caused by chemo can be covered up or made less obvious. If you are just starting chemo, you may want to shop for a hairpiece before your hair begins to fall out. Toupees are warm and not really comfortable, so you may decide to save it to wear outside the home or hospital. You may decide to wear a hat or cap instead of a hairpiece in public. Many men feel a hairpiece is just too much trouble, especially since it’s not easy to find one that looks natural. Some men decide to just shave their heads. But other men may feel ashamed for even caring about being bald. It can be just as upsetting for a man to lose his hair during cancer treatment as it is for a woman.

It’s a good idea for a couple to discuss how each of them feels about wearing a hairpiece or head covering during lovemaking. There’s no right or wrong decision.

Disguising weight loss, skin color and nail changes, and infusion catheters is a bigger problem. For the most part, clothes that fit well look better. Wearing something too tight or too baggy will just draw attention to any weight change. High necks and long sleeves can hide a catheter, but may be too hot in warm weather. Look for thin fabrics that will be cool while covering you.

Sometimes the changes in your body are so upsetting that you can’t relax or think positively. Rather than feel like a failure, take this as a clue that some counseling from a health care professional would be helpful. (See the “Professional help” section.)

Last Medical Review: 08/19/2013
Last Revised: 08/19/2013