Minnesota Oncology

Birth Control and Sexuality

We are sexual beings from the day we are born until the day we die. Regardless of age or health, human beings are capable of sexual pleasure. Illness may affect your sexuality, but it need not end it. Always remember: you cannot get or transmit cancer by touching, hugging, kissing, or by other sexual activity.

Important Points to Consider

Basic Facts

  • Increased stress can lower your desire for sex.
  • You can show someone how much you love them in many ways other than through a sexual act.
  • Birth control is essential as your cancer treatment may cause damage to an unborn fetus.
  • Becoming pregnant while on chemotherapy is never recommended. If you hope to become pregnant after completing treatment, discuss it with your doctor first. Some men use a sperm bank as a precaution. Ask your doctor if using a sperm bank is appropriate for your situation.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation can reduce vaginal secretions. Water-based lubricants such as KY Jelly can help this situation.
  • Hormone changes caused by chemotherapy also can result in itching, burning, or dryness of vaginal tissue.
  • Some medications can decrease sexual desire or cause physical changes in the genital region, such as less feeling due to decreased blood flow.
  • If your white blood counts or platelets are too low, your doctor may tell you to stop having sex for a few days or take special precautions.

Your Sexuality

  • Take the pressure off sexual performance and concentrate on intimacy through touching and expressing your feelings.
  • Tell your partner about your feelings and concerns. Be open about your feelings of fear, pain, or frustration.
  • Then ask your partner about his or her feelings. You may be surprised to find that your partner is more accepting of your situation than you are and can be a great source of comfort.
  • Any changes in your body due to the cancer are most likely of more concern to you than to your partner.
  • Be open while you are engaging in sexual activity. Let your partner know if something doesn’t feel good. A shift in position may help. Work together for mutual pleasure and comfort as you focus on the future rather than the past.

Having Sex & Cancer

  • Choose a time of day when you feel well rested. Take your pain medication 1 hour before sexual activity.
  • Take a warm bath or shower beforehand; this will help you relax – or try giving each other a massage.
  • Don’t be hurried; pace yourself during sexual activity so that you don’t tire.
  • Your body is covered with many nerve endings. For a more pleasurable experience use your sense of touch to its fullest.
  • If you can breathe better, you will feel better. Deep breathing can make you feel better and have more energy and vitality. Enjoy this activity with your partner before sex.

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