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Chemotherapy Sexual Side Effects

Feelings About Sexuality During Chemotherapy

Sexual feelings and attitudes vary among people during chemotherapy. Some people find that they feel closer than ever to their partners and have an increased desire for sexual activity. Some people experience little or no change in their sexual desire and energy level. Others, however, find that their sexual interest declines because of the physical and emotional stresses of having cancer and getting chemotherapy. These stresses may include:
  • Worries about changes in appearance
  • Anxiety about health, family, or finances
  • Side effects of treatment, including fatigue and hormonal changes.
A partner's concerns or fears can also affect the sexual relationship. Some may worry that physical intimacy will harm the person who has cancer, while others may fear that they might "catch" the cancer or be affected by the drugs. Both you and your partner should feel free to discuss sexual concerns with your healthcare provider, nurse, social worker, or other counselor who can give you the information and the reassurance you need.
You and your partner should also try to share your feelings with each other. If it is difficult talking to each other about sex, cancer, or both, you may want to speak to a counselor who can help you talk more openly. Among the people who can help are psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marriage counselors, sex therapists, and members of the clergy.
If you were comfortable with, and enjoyed, sexual relations before starting chemotherapy, the chances are that you will still find pleasure in physical intimacy during your cancer treatment. You may discover, however, that intimacy changes during treatment. Hugging, touching, holding, and cuddling may become more important, while sexual intercourse may become less important. Remember that what was true before you started chemotherapy remains true now -- there is no one "right" way to express your sexuality. You and your partner should decide together what gives both of you pleasure.
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