- Cancer, sex, and sexuality
- How the male body works sexually
- How pelvic surgery to treat cancer can affect erections
- How pelvic radiation therapy can affect erections
- How chemotherapy can affect erections
- The psychological effects of cancer treatment on erections
- How cancer treatment can affect ejaculation
- How cancer treatment can affect fertility
- How cancer treatment can affect sexual desire and response
- How cancer treatments can affect sexuality and fertility
- Dealing with sexual problems
- What treatments are available to help with erections?
- When is sexual counseling helpful?
- 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 concerns linked to certain cancers and their treatment
- Feeling good about yourself and feeling good about sex
- Chemotherapy also changes the way you look
- Overcoming depression
- Dealing with grief and loss
- Good communication: The key to building a successful sexual relationship
- Overcoming anxiety about sex
- Rekindling sexual interest
- Sexual activity with your partner
- Keeping your sex life going despite cancer treatment
- The single man and cancer
- Men who have sex with men
- Frequently asked questions
- Professional help
- American Cancer Society programs
- To learn more
How chemotherapy can affect erections
Most men getting chemotherapy (often called chemo) still have normal erections. But a few do 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.
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. (This damage may be called peripheral neuropathy.) For now, there are no studies showing 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 “How cancer treatment can affect fertility” section.)
For men who have had a stem cell transplant
Men who have had graft-versus-host disease after a 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.
Last Medical Review: 08/19/2013
Last Revised: 08/19/2013