After Diagnosis: A Guide for Patients and Families

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How will cancer affect my sex life?

Sexual feelings and attitudes vary greatly among people under any circumstances. This is also true during illness. Some people have little or no change in their sexual desire and energy level because of cancer. Others find that their interest declines because of the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and treatment.

If your sexual desire and energy levels change during treatment, keep in mind that this is normal and can happen for many reasons. Some common reasons are stress, feeling tired, and other treatment side effects. Body image issues may also play a part.

If you were comfortable with and enjoyed a healthy sex life before starting treatment, chances are you will still find pleasure in physical intimacy during your treatment. You may find that intimacy takes on a new meaning and you relate differently. Hugging, touching, holding, and cuddling may become more important, while sex may become less important.

A healthy sex life can be hard to maintain when there are so many physical and emotional factors involved. Get as much information from your doctor and other resources as you can so that you understand what you can and can’t do before, during, and after treatment. For more information, order the free booklets Sexuality for the Man With Cancer and Sexuality for the Woman With Cancer by calling us at 1-800-227-2345, or read them at


Even though pregnancy may be possible during cancer treatment, it’s not wise – some treatments could cause birth defects. Many doctors tell men and women to use birth control throughout their treatment.

Women may find that their periods become irregular or stop while getting treatment. This does not mean that they can’t get pregnant, so birth control is still needed during treatment. In men, the treatments may reduce or damage sperm cells. But in many cases, men are again fertile after treatment is done.

Whether or not you plan to have children, it’s normal to worry about how treatment will affect your fertility. Talk to your doctor before treatment starts about any questions or concerns you have about fertility and cancer treatment. This will help you make the treatment decisions that are best for you.

You can also learn more about how different cancer treatments can affect fertility and what your options are if you want to have children later. Call us for a free copy of Fertility and Men With Cancer or Fertility and Women With Cancer, or read this information online at

Last Medical Review: 03/06/2014
Last Revised: 04/07/2014