Sex life and pelvic radiotherapy

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse may advise you to wait for a few weeks to allow side effects to settle.

Pelvic radiotherapy may affect your fertility. But, if you could become pregnant or father a child, it is important to use effective contraception for sometime after having pelvic radiotherapy. This is because the effects of radiation may damage a baby conceived during this time. Your specialist doctor can tell you how long you will need to use contraception for. Your doctor or nurse can arrange support to help you cope with fertility issues.

Some men have erection difficulties after treatment but, there are effective treatments for this. Pelvic radiotherapy can also cause changes to ejaculation. Men who’ve had radioactive seeds placed in their prostate should use condoms for a few weeks to protect their partner.

Women may have vaginal changes. These can make sex uncomfortable. There are creams, lubricants and other treatments which can help.

If you are having sexual difficulties that don’t improve talk to your cancer doctor or specialist nurse. They are used to dealing with intimate problems.

Effects on your sex life

It can be difficult to talk about your sex life. But if you have any problems during or after your treatment, there are usually things that can help. You may have side effects that:

  • mean you do not feel like having sex
  • make having penetrative sex uncomfortable or painful.

Do not let embarrassment stop you from getting information that can help. Your team can give you advice and support. If you need expert advice, they can often arrange this for you.

If you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or LGBT+, you may worry about your healthcare team treating you insensitively. Many sexual difficulties caused by pelvic radiotherapy are similar whatever your sexuality. But you may have some specific questions. Having your sexual or gender identity acknowledged may help you feel more supported. It also means your healthcare team can give you the right information and advice.

If you feel unable to talk to your healthcare team about your sexuality, contact the LGBT Foundation. They have a helpline that can give you confidential advice and support.


Effects on your sex life

It can be difficult to talk about your sex life. But if you have any problems during or after your treatment, there are usually things that can help. You may have side effects that:

  • mean you do not feel like having sex
  • make having penetrative sex uncomfortable or painful
  • make it difficult to get, or keep, an erection.

Do not let embarrassment stop you from getting information that can help. Your team can give advice and support. If you need expert advice, they can often arrange this for you.

If you identify as gay, bisexual, transgender or LGBT+, you may worry about your healthcare team treating you insensitively. Many sexual difficulties caused by pelvic radiotherapy are similar whatever your sexuality. But you may have some specific questions. Having your sexual or gender identity acknowledged may help you feel more supported. It also means your healthcare team can give you the right information and advice.

If you feel unable to talk to your healthcare team about your sexuality, contact the LGBT Foundation. They have a helpline that can give you confidential advice and support.


Contraception

It is important that you do not get pregnant during your treatment. This is because radiotherapy can harm an unborn baby. You should use contraception to prevent pregnancy during your treatment and for a time after.

This is important even if you have been told that radiotherapy will stop your periods or make you unable to get pregnant. It is difficult to know exactly when your fertility will be affected. Even if your periods stop, you may still be able to get pregnant.

There are different types of contraception. The best ones to use during pelvic radiotherapy are a condom or cap (diaphragm). The contraceptive pill is less effective during treatment if you have side effects such as diarrhoea.

Ask your doctor or nurse if you have any questions about contraception.

Back to Pelvic radiotherapy explained

What is pelvic radiotherapy?

The pelvis is the lower part of the tummy between the hips. Radiotherapy to this area is called pelvic radiotherapy.

Side effects during treatment

You may have side effects during and shortly after your treatment. The healthcare team will help you to manage these.

After pelvic radiotherapy

Your radiotherapy team will explain any follow-up you need, how they can help and how you can help yourself.