Sex After Chemotherapy: The Truth Unveiled

Anyone going through chemotherapy would expect their biggest concern would be the loss of their hair, however, new reports are finding that a side effect of chemotherapy is painful sex and low libido. Doctors very often forget to mention these side effects and never ask the question, “How is your sex life going?”

Mary Hughes, a clinical nurse specialist in sexuality and cancer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston says, “Doctors aim to treat the disease and other pressing side effects such as nausea, vomiting, sleeping, and pain rather than sexuality.” Hughes also states that women may feel a certain amount of shame because they are thinking about sex while they are fighting to live. Statistics show that there are 13.7 million cancer survivors in the U.S and the number is expected to jump to 18 million by 2022, so the amount of women suffering from these sexual side effects is expected to rise.

The different types of treatments for breast cancers can cause a lot of chaos on the systems that contribute to pleasurable sex, and can sometimes even leave a woman infertile. Side effects such as vaginal dryness and tightness can occur and cause painful sex, loss of libido, and a decrease in the ability to reach orgasm are the most commonly reported sexual symptoms. A decrease in estrogen production or the surgical removal of ovaries can cause a woman to quickly go into menopause.

At this time there is no functional cure, however, research has begun. Susan G. Komen and Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation have funded a study in which 300 breast cancer and lymphoma patients aged 18-50 will be followed for five years in order to understand the impact that different cancer treatments had on their sex lives and fertility.