Some people may find that their interest in sex is reduced after treatment.
There are different reasons for this:
- Coping with cancer and its treatment can cause anxiety, depression and low self esteem.
- Tiredness (fatigue) may carry on for months after treatment.
- Late bladder or bowel effects may lower your sex drive because they affect how you feel about yourself sexually.
- Men who’ve had pelvic radiotherapy produce a lower level of testosterone, which is important for sex drive.
You may find it helpful to get emotional support or talk to a counsellor or sex therapist. As the late effects ease, you may start to feel better about yourself sexually.
Men may have a blood test to check testosterone levels, if these are low then your specialist may prescribe replacement therapy for you. Your specialist can tell you if testosterone replacement therapy is likely to be helpful for you. This may not be suitable if you have had prostate cancer.
Occasionally, doctors may prescribe testosterone for women who are distressed by their low sex drive. We normally think of testosterone as a male hormone, but women also produce it in much smaller amounts. Doctors usually only consider giving it if other approaches haven’t worked.
If you have a partner, let them know how you feel. Explaining why you don’t feel like having sex can reassure them it isn’t that you no longer find them attractive. You can show your partner how much you care in other sensual and physically affectionate ways.
If sexual difficulties don’t improve, it may be a good idea to ask for advice rather than letting things drift between you. Our section on getting help has more information.
Treating any late effects of pelvic radiotherapy that are causing you problems may improve things. For example if you don’t have much energy, having sex in different, less energetic ways or quicker sexual contact can help.