How Cancer Can Affect Your Sex Life

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jun 02, 2011

How Cancer Can Affect Your Sex Life

Sexual life of person with cancer is affected in many ways. Causes of dysfunction in sex life after cancer can range from physical to psychological. However there are more evidences of physical consequences of cancer on sex life.

Studies show that about 50% of women who are on cancer treatment (for gynecologic or breast cancers) develop enduring sexual dysfunction. And about 70% of men with prostate cancer experience sexual dysfunction followed by cancer treatment. It is important to understand cancer affects your sex life.


Lack of Desire

Cancer treatment such as bone marrow transplantation, chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplantation affects sex life of both men and women. Reason being that cancer treatment makes you feel stressed, tired, disturbs normal hormonal balance and finally hamper sex drive.

In females, chemotherapy can induce menopause that ultimately leads to vaginal dryness and decreased sexual arousal. However, men’s sexual cycle is somewhat independent so they may still have sex drive but may miss on erection. Some men even feel contraction of muscles followed by orgasm but they lack semen.


Hormonal Changes

Drop in the level of hormones named natural estrogen (testosterone) hampers the orgasm and sexual responsiveness.


Body Image Issues

Most of the cancer patients become nervous about their looks. People with cancer starts believing that changes in their body will turn off their partner and they will be looked down. The thought that they have cancer also tend to shatter their self confidence during sex.



  • Men with cancer mostly report to experience pain in their genital areas.
  • When cancer treatment effects prostate gland or urethra then ejaculation may become painful.
  • Cancer surgery can cause pain during orgasm. This is because of scar tissues that are formed in abdomen area after surgery.
  • In some cases penis become less erect and can even develop painful curve during erection. This condition is termed as Peyronie's disease and is caused because of scar in the penis. However, it can be treated by surgery or simply by injecting certain drugs.
  • If cancer patients experience some pain in any genital area they must immediately talk to their doctor.



If cancer is to be controlled one cannot avoid side-effects of cancer treatment. Procedures such as Radical Prostectomy can lead to loss of erection or inability of penis to be as firm as before cancer. However, the good news is that the person can restore erection after cancer treatment.

Another common adverse effect of cancer treatment on sexual health of men is that it damage hormonal balance and nerves & blood vessels of pelvic area.

Beside the physical damage there is also a psychological part to it. Sexual life after cancer is mostly filled with nagging anxiety of not being able to satisfy their partner. These negative feelings about ‘self’ also contribute to the inability to erect.


Read more articles on Understand Cancer.


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