Cancer Home > Chemotherapy Sexual Side Effects

Some men and women may experience sexual side effects from chemotherapy treatment. In men, chemotherapy can lower the number of sperm cells and reduce their ability to move, potentially resulting in infertility. For women, chemotherapy can affect the ovaries or cause infertility, menopause-like symptoms, or even birth defects if the woman is pregnant during chemotherapy treatment. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider if you experience any of these chemotherapy sexual side effects.

An Overview of Chemotherapy Sexual Side Effects

Chemotherapy can sometimes affect sexual organs (testis in men, vagina and ovaries in women) and sexual functioning in both men and women. The chemotherapy sexual side effects that might occur depend on the drugs used and the person's age and general health.
 

Men, Chemotherapy, and Sexual Side Effects

Chemotherapy drugs may lower the number of sperm cells and reduce their ability to move. These changes can result in infertility, which may be temporary or permanent. Infertility affects a man's ability to father a child, but not a man's ability to have sexual intercourse. Some other possible effects of these drugs include problems with getting or keeping an erection and damage to the chromosomes, which could lead to birth defects.
 
What You Can Do:
 
  • Before starting cancer treatment, talk with your healthcare provider about the possibility of sperm banking (a procedure that freezes sperm for future use) if infertility may be a problem. Also, be sure to ask about the cost of sperm banking.
     
  • Use birth control with your partner during chemotherapy treatment. Ask your healthcare provider how long you need to use birth control.
     
  • Use a condom during sexual intercourse for the first 48 hours after the last dose of chemotherapy because some of the chemotherapy may end up in the sperm.
     
  • Ask your healthcare provider if the chemotherapy will likely affect your ability to father a child. If so, will the effects be temporary or permanent?
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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