Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can cause physical and emotional changes that may affect your sexuality and intimate relationships. There’s much you and your health
Many patients lose interest in sex during treatment or have concerns about body image. Men may have difficulty with erections. Women may experience pain during intercourse, vaginal dryness or early menopause. Sex is a sensitive subject for many of us, but we encourage you to talk with your partner and your physician about any concerns you have.
During this time, you’ll need to take extra precautions if you are sexually active when undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Use birth control for as long as your physician or nurse advises. Some medications have been linked to birth defects. The goal is to improve your quality of life where sexuality is concerned.
Your care team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center is always here to support you. They may also recommend other resources for you.
Following the merger of long-time partners, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the organization was renamed to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. We are an independent, nonprofit organization that also serves as UW Medicine's cancer program.
If lack of desire is a problem, you are fearful about sexual activity, or experience any of the symptoms described below, we encourage you to talk with your doctor or nurse during clinic hours. They can evaluate if further medical testing is necessary and what treatments or counseling may help.
Keeping an open mind can help your sex life during treatment.
Unfortunately, fatigue can be a long-lasting problem after treatment.
If you are experiencing pain during intercourse, talk to your doctor or nurse. Trying these options may also help:
Much sexual contact is safe, with certain precautions.
To reduce the risk of infection, avoid kissing anyone who has open mouth sores, cold sores, a cold, the flu, or symptoms of a respiratory infection.
Sexual intercourse is restricted at times when:
Sexual activity is restricted when:
Latex condoms should be used:
Oral sex is acceptable with certain precautions. To reduce the risk of infection, genitals should be cleansed before and after oral sex. Avoid contact with the rectal area.
Oral sex should be avoided if:
Wear condoms during anal sex.
Avoid anal sex if:
As in other areas of your life during cancer treatment, it’s very important to avoid infections.
This comprehensive reference was compiled by the Fred Hutch Survivorship Clinic.