Effects of chemotherapy on men

Chemotherapy and sexuality

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Some of the side effects of chemotherapy can reduce your sex drive. These side effects include feeling sick, weakness, depression, tiredness and a lack of energy. Many of these can be reduced or stopped with medicines.

Usually there’s no medical reason to stop having sex during chemotherapy. But if you have low platelets, or a low white blood cell count, you may be advised to avoid penetrative sex until your blood count improves.

Effects of chemotherapy

You may find your sex drive falls while you’re having chemotherapy, due to tiredness and sometimes nausea. It will usually return to normal soon after you finish treatment. Some types of chemotherapy reduce the amount of testosterone produced, but this also usually goes back to normal in time.

Some anti-sickness tablets can cause a low sex drive. Once you stop taking these, your sex drive should come back.

Some chemotherapy drugs can affect the nerves in your hands and feet. This is called peripheral neuropathy. It can cause tingling or numbness, or a feeling of pins and needles and pain. If your hands are uncomfortable or numb, you may find some sexual contact or positions difficult. Peripheral neuropathy is usually temporary, but it may be permanent.

A few chemotherapy drugs can damage your nerves. This is called neurotoxicity and it may affect your ability to get and keep an erection. Your doctor or nurse can tell you how likely this is to happen to you, based on the chemotherapy drugs you’re having.

Once chemotherapy is over, your sex drive will usually come back in time. However, if the chemotherapy has made your hair fall out, if you’ve lost weight, or if you have a central line or PICC line, you may not feel very ‘sexy’.

Back to Effects of treatment on a man's sexuality

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