Sexual and Reproductive Issues
Chemotherapy may affect sexual feelings and reproductive organs. These side effects are dependent on the type of chemotherapy drugs given, age, and general health and sexual activity prior to starting chemotherapy. Sexuality issues are highly personal. Maintaining open communication with your partner and your doctor may be helpful. Your doctor and nurses are accustomed to discussing these sensitive issues everyday. We have numerous resources to help you through any feelings and issues that may develop.
Here are a few suggestions
It sounds simple, but looking better may actually help you feel better. Try to maintain the same grooming habits—fashion, hairstyle, and so on—as you did before your diagnosis.
Plan special activities for both the days when you’re feeling well and those when you aren’t. Acknowledge that cancer and treatment can cause shifts in mood.
Enjoy the days when you’re feeling well. On those days that are difficult, keep a positive outlook—plan all you’d like to do as soon as you feel better.
If you need help with clothes and hair and other aspects of your appearance, don’t hesitate to ask for it. The “Look Good…Feel Better” program of the American Cancer Society (ACS), for example, can help. The ACS publications “Sexuality for Women and Their Partners” and “Sexuality for Men and Their Partners” may also be helpful.
Chemotherapy can affect the ovaries and decrease the amount of hormones produced. This can lead to irregular menstrual periods or your periods may stop completely. You may also develop menopause symptoms such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes. To prevent infection and relieve dryness, you may use a water-based vaginal lubricant. Wear cotton underwear and loose fitting pants or shorts.
Women of childbearing age should use a form of birth control throughout treatment.
Chemotherapy can lower the number of sperm produced and decrease the sperms motility. This can result in infertility, which may or may not be temporary. Infertility does not affect your ability to have sexual intercourse. Some patients may experience lack of desire during their chemotherapy treatment.
If you are of reproductive age and think you may want to have children after treatment, your doctor will discuss specific ways in advance to bank eggs or sperm.