Sex and cancer treatment

Whether you're sexually active or not, you may have worries and questions about sex. Talking about such personal issues can be difficult, even with your partner. But few problems can be overcome if you keep them to yourself.

Try to talk openly about any issues you are facing. Yes, it might take some courage to talk about it but it'll be a weight off your mind once you do.

The good news is that support and advice is out there to help you manage any impact your treatment may have. You and your partner, together or separately, could find it helpful to speak to a member of your care team about any worries you have about sex and contraception.

Although this may feel difficult, there is no need to be embarrassed. Your doctors and nurses will be used to discussing this and you are unlikely to ask a question they haven't heard before.

Safe sex and cancer treatment

Some people assume that because they're receiving cancer treatment they can't become pregnant, or get someone else pregnant. But for most young people on treatment this is not the case and doctors advise using effective contraception throughout treatment to avoid accidental pregnancy.

If you are on chemotherapy, it's recommended you always use barrier contraception (eg condoms) when having sex while on treatment, even if you or your partner use other forms of contraception. Some cancer treatments (for both men and women) may also harm an unborn baby.

For some young people there may also be times when having sex isn't advisable, for example when your immune system is low. This might be frustrating. After all, it's only natural to want to continue living your life as normally as possible during treatment. At the same time, it's important to recognise when to put your health and welfare first.

You can look at our pages on contraception and having children for more information. And it's a good idea to discuss your situation with a member of your care team you feel comfortable talking to. They will know your individual case and will be able to advise you best.

More information about relationships and sex

Visit the CLIC Sargent relationships and sex section for straight-talking expert advice on a range of questions, including the effects of cancer and treatment on dating, body-confidence and more. 

You can also find details of organisations that provide general support around sex and relationships.

Content last reviewed: November 2015
Next planned review: 2016