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Sex during cancer treatment is generally considered safe. However, there are some health concerns to consider.
Speak to a care team member before you take part in sexual activity. Ask them any questions you have.
Sexual activity includes vaginal, oral, and anal sex and masturbation. In some cases, there is a risk of bleeding and infection due to certain cancers and treatments. A sexual partner could also be exposed to chemotherapy drugs if they have sex with a patient while the drugs are still active.
Before having sex during cancer treatment, make sure that you:
It is important to use a condom or other form of barrier protection during sex. This is especially important if you have cancer because your immune system may be weak. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a risk for anyone who has unprotected sex.
People who have sex while receiving treatment should use always use barrier protection. This includes latex condoms with nonoxyl-9 spermicide. Using condoms:
Some people experience no problems having sex during and after cancer treatment. For others, feelings and changes during cancer treatment can make it difficult to enjoy sexual intimacy. These can include:
Many factors can affect feelings about sex during cancer treatment. These emotions can cause a person to want to have sex less often. Or they can make it difficult to have an orgasm or erection. These feelings are all normal.
Ways to resolve these feelings include:
Pediatric cancer patients are often uncomfortable talking to their care team about sexual issues. They may not want their parents to find out. The conversation will likely be confidential between the provider and patient.
Some states give providers the option to inform parents that their child is seeking services related to sexual health care. Be clear with your provider if you want your conversation to remain private.
Cancer treatment may affect your ability to have children. It is important to talk to your medical team about this possibility before treatment starts. They can tell you how treatment could affect your fertility. You might be able to store some eggs or sperm before treatment, to have children later. Your care team can explain the risks and your options.
Unprotected sex could result in pregnancy during cancer treatment. If a pregnancy happens, doctors may stop therapy or change the treatment plan. Changes may affect how the cancer responds to treatment.
Being pregnant when you have chemo or radiation has serious risks. Chemo and radiation could damage your sperm or eggs. A baby created from those damaged cells could have birth defects.
It is strongly recommended to wait until after treatment to have a baby. To do this, always use protection during sex. Talk to the care team about treatment and how long to wait before trying to have a child.
Every sexually active woman should regularly see a gynecologist (a doctor who specializes in female reproductive health). Each person reacts differently to cancer treatment. Gynecologists may suggest that some cancer survivors stop taking medicine or birth control for a short time. This can help to resume regular periods.
Women who have not had a period 6 months after treatment should call their gynecologist or talk to their care team.
Always use barrier protection such as condoms during sexual activity to prevent pregnancy and STIs.
If vaginal dryness continues after treatment, a water-based lubricant may help. Water-based lubricants prevent bacteria growth.
Reviewed: July 2022