What are some other ways to stay close?

You may feel too tired, weak or unwell to have sex. At the same time, you may be worried that you aren’t satisfying your partner’s sexual needs. Don’t worry. Relationships can survive without sex. You might both enjoy many other kinds of physical touch right now, like cuddling, holding and kissing each other.  You can also show feelings of love and caring through other activities together.

Depending on your counts, you may be able to masturbate but it’s a good idea to check with your doctor first.

Will it help me to talk about it?

Even though it can be hard to open up, you may feel relieved if you tell your partner about your feelings, worries, or fears. Talking helps you understand and support each other . Together, you may find new ways to work around problems and make changes in your relationship.

If you feel stressed out or overwhelmed, you may find it helpful to talk with a sympathetic person. This could be a close friend, family member or another person who has cancer.

Please consider talking to a member of your healthcare team. Although it may be hard to bring up this topic, we are used to discussing sex with patients.

What about changes in my body and mind?

It’s normal to have both long and short-term relationships. If you are in a caring relationship, your partner probably means a lot to you and likely gives you support and affection. When you are faced with cancer, you may feel differently about a lot of things, including your relationship. This is normal.

You might feel differently because your focus has shifted to your health. Or maybe you just don’t feel like yourself. Both are common experiences.

You may not feel like being close in a sexual way with another person when you think that you look different. Cancer treatments can change your body in ways that you think make you less attractive. These changes may include losing your hair, losing or gaining weight, or having scars from surgery. It’s normal not to feel like having sex when you are concerned about how you look.

You may also feel very tired. Having less energy can make you less interested in having sex. Fatigue can last a long time, even after treatment has stopped.

These changes in your body and mind affect how you respond to sexual thoughts and situations. For boys, you may not get as erect (hard) or ejaculate (cum) as usual. For girls, you may not get aroused or be able to orgasm. It’s important to remember most changes are temporary.

What is sexuality?

  • How you see yourself as a man or woman
  • Wanting to be close to someone
  • Feeling horny, wanting to have sex
  • Your body’s response to sexual feelings
  • How to satisfy yourself

Having cancer may affect any of these things.

What does it mean when you talk about sex?

  • It means much more than “having sex.” Having sex means sexual activity, such as vaginal, oral or anal sex and masturbation.
  • It means everything relating to your thoughts, feelings and experiences with sex. This is called sexuality.

Sexuality is a normal, healthy part of life.

How long should I wait after chemo or radiation to have sex?

We recommend that you wait at least 72 hours after chemotherapy to have sex. This is the average time it takes for the chemo to leave your system. Having sex sooner could expose your partner to the effects of chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy does not linger in the body, so there is no risk to your partner. You do not have to wait.

What level should my neuts be to have sex?

Your Absolute Neutrophil Count (also called ANC neutrophils, neuts. Granulocytes or grans) should be at least “1” before having sex. This includes all sexual activity such as masturbating, vaginal, oral or anal sex.

ANC (neuts or grans) reported in different ways

In conversation we may say:




On test results you will see:

1 x 109/L



You may read:

1,000 or

 1 x 103/microliter


Why? Because any sexual activity can spread germs and may cause infections. Neuts are white blood cells that fight germs and can prevent infection.

During foreplay (making out, touching) and all sexual activity, germs that naturally live on the skin can enter your body. This could cause an infection. Infections that would be minor skin problems for someone with good health, can be more serious if your neuts are low.

It is also possible to get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) if you have unprotected sex with an infected person. With low neuts, your immune system is too weak to fight off infection, and an STI could become very serious. Even if your neuts are normal, protect yourself by using a condom every time you have sex (vaginal, oral or anal sex.) There are male and female condoms that can protect you.

What level should my platelets be to have sex?

Your platelet count should be at least 50 before having sex. This includes all sexual activity such as masturbating, vaginal, oral or anal sex.

The platelet count is reported in different ways

In conversation we may say:




On test results you will see:

50 x 109/L



You may read:

50,000 or

 50 x 103/microliter


Why? Because sexual activity can cause bleeding. It doesn’t have to be rough sex. There can be such a tiny amount of blood that you can’t even see it. This can be dangerous if your platelets are low.

Platelets are cells in your blood that stick together to help make a clot and stop bleeding. If you do not have enough platelets, your body cannot stop the bleeding.