- Cancer, sex, and sexuality
- How the male body works sexually
- Keeping your sex life going despite cancer treatment
- Erections and pelvic surgery to treat cancer
- Erections and pelvic radiation therapy
- Erections and chemotherapy
- Erections, desire, and hormone therapy
- Erections and the psychological effects of cancer treatment
- Ejaculation and cancer treatment
- Fertility and cancer treatment
- How common cancer treatments can affect sexuality and fertility
- Dealing with sexual problems
- Dealing with short-term problems
- Finding the cause of problems that appear to be permanent
- When is sexual counseling helpful?
- Is there a pill that will cure sexual problems?
- Is there a way to restore erections if the nerves or blood supply of the penis has been damaged?
- Methods to help with erections
- Can testosterone restore sexual functioning?
- What about herbs or natural cures for erection problems?
- Is there a way to make orgasms as intense as they used to be?
- Special aspects of some cancer treatments
- Feeling good about yourself and feeling good about sex
- Chemotherapy changes the way you look
- Changing negative thoughts
- Overcoming depression
- Dealing with grief and loss
- Rebuilding self-esteem
- Good communication: The key to building a successful sexual relationship
- Overcoming anxiety about sex
- Rekindling sexual interest
- Sexual activity with your partner
- The single man and cancer
- Men who have sex with men
- Frequently asked questions
- Professional help
- About the American Cancer Society
- Additional resources
Erections and chemotherapy
Most men getting chemotherapy (often called chemo) still have normal erections. But a few develop problems. Erections and sexual desire often decrease right after getting chemo but return in a week or so.
Chemo can sometimes affect sexual desire and erections by slowing testosterone output. Some of the medicines used to prevent nausea during chemo can also upset a man’s hormone balance. But hormone levels should return to normal after treatments end.
Men who have had graft-versus-host disease after a bone marrow transplant are more likely to have a long-lasting loss of testosterone. In some cases, these men may need testosterone replacement therapy to regain sexual desire and erections.
A few cancer treatment drugs like cisplatinum, vincristine, bortezomib, and thalidomide can cause lifelong damage to parts of the nervous system, usually the small nerves of the hands and feet. There are no studies in the available medical research to show that these drugs directly injure the large nerve bundles that allow erection. But some people have concerns because the drugs are known to affect nerve tissue, and there are many nerves involved in sexual function.
Chemo can also cause a flare-up of genital herpes or genital wart infections if a man has had them in the past. Some types of chemo can cause short-term and life-long infertility. (See the “Fertility and cancer treatment” section.)
Last Medical Review: 10/28/2011
Last Revised: 10/28/2011