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.

What methods of birth control are safe? (male)

It is important to know that event though you may have been told that your treatment could affect your fertility, it is still possible to get your partner pregnant.

Protect yourself by using a latex condom with spermicide every time you have vaginal sex. Condoms also protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

If you have questions about birth control, talk with your oncologist.

Do I need to protect my partner or myself (male)?

Yes. If you are sexually active you need to take some precautions.

It is best to wait at least 72 hours before having sex to protect your partner from exposure to chemotherapy. This is the average time it takes for chemotherapy to leave your body.

Chemotherapy medications may damage sperm. The damage your sperm could cause serious birth defects if you get your partner pregnant. Use birth control to prevent pregnancy. Even if your partner is using birth control, we recommend that you use latex condoms as they can also protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

Decide on a method of birth control and have it ready, before having sex. Talk with you oncologist if you need help choosing a method of birth control.

If you have had many blood transfusions, you may worry about getting an infection and passing it to your partner. This is extremely unlikely to happen as all blood donors and donated blood are carefully tested.

One thing you don’t have to worry about is giving your partner cancer. Cancer cannot be passed from one person to another.

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:

“1”

 

=

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:

“50”

 

=

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.

How Will Having Cancer Affect My Relationship?

It’s normal to have some long and short-term relationships. If you are in a relationship, your partner means a lot to you and he or she gives you support and love. When you are faced with cancer, you may feel differently about a lot of things, including your relationship. This is normal.

When it comes to a person you have a sexual relationship with, you may feel different because you are thinking about your health. Or maybe you just do not feel like yourself. This is normal.

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 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. You may not get as hard (aroused) or come (cum, ejaculate) as usual. It’s important to  remember most changes are temporary.

 

It can help 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 each other’s feelings 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.

Find ways to stay close

You may feel too tired, weal 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.

Even though you aren’t having sex, both of you still need to feel loved and be touched. Find ways to be close by spending time alone touching, holding or kissing each other.

When can I have sex again?

With time, your usual sexual feelings will return. You may have sex when you feel ready. And it’s okay to wait until you have completely recovered.

When you are ready, take it slow. Let your partner know how you feel. Tell her or him what you would like and what feels good. Depending on your health, you may need to find new ways of pleasing each other. For example, you may need to change positions to make having sex more comfortable

Sometimes there are medical risks. For example, it’s not safe to have sex when your blood counts are too low. You also need to know that there can still be some risks, even while your blood counts are at an acceptable level. The thin lining of the vagina and anus can be easily torn, which could cause bleeding or infection. This is the reason we don’t put thermometers or medications into the rectum. To protect your health, carefully consider the decisions you make about having sex.

Please use this information as a guide, not as personal medical advice. We encourage you to talk with your oncologist to find out if having sex is risky for your health or your partner’s health.