What About Sex? (Part 1)
Author's note: This is the first of a two-part series. Here we discuss the practical side of sex for couples dealing with blood cancer. We’ll cover ways to improve your sex life in Part 2. These posts are written from the author’s heterosexual perspective. However, much of what is discussed can be applied to same-sex couples as well.
Talk to your doctor
There are more concerns about blood cancer and sex than can be covered in this short post. It is very important that you talk to your doctor before any sexual activity. It may seem like a difficult subject, but most doctors will understand your needs and you’ll find it more comfortable if you face the issue directly.
Intimacy after chemotherapy and other treatments
Many folks won’t feel like getting it on after they’ve had chemo or other treatments. However, if you’re up to it, be sure to wear protection (either a condom for men or an internal condom (also known as a female condom) for women when having intercourse. This will reduce your partner’s risk of exposure to residue from chemo drugs that may be present in semen and vaginal fluids.1
Be sure to ask your doctor how long you should continue to wear protection after your chemotherapy.
If chemotherapy or any treatment lowers your white blood cell count and/or your platelet count, your doctor may tell you to avoid sex until your blood counts improve.2
And, considering the side effects of treatment, you might plan your sexual activity around the times you take your anti-nausea or pain meds. It will take some of the spontaneity away but hey, whatever works, right?
Blood cancer patients are often more susceptible to infection and should ask their doctor if they can continue sexual activity.2 He/she may recommend avoiding it if your otherwise healthy partner has cold sores, influenza, a cold, or other conditions that would put you at risk.
Discuss this with your doctor. Depending on your immunity levels and especially after chemo treatment, he/she may advise you to always use protection. That means a condom on the man for fellatio and a dental dam or internal condom on the woman for cunnilingus.2 I can’t imagine dental dams are very sexy at all. If your doctor approves it, a female condom may be more pleasurable. However, absolutely talk to your doctor about methods of protection before having oral sex.
It is paramount that you use protection to reduce the chances of pregnancy. Cancer treatments such as chemo or radiation could hurt your unborn child.1,2
Take your time
Don’t pressure yourself to perform. Cancer brings new stresses into both your lives. Most importantly don’t rush. With open communication and loving hearts, you both will find your way.
Well, these are just a few of the practical issues. Your doctor may have other concerns to discuss before you get “frisky.”
Don’t be discouraged though. There are always things a couple can do to pleasure each other.
Check back for Part 2!
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?