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Blood Cancer & Sexual Health

I’d like to introduce myself to the community. My name is Nick Myers and I have a PhD in Human Sexuality Education. I’ve been writing for the Health Union family for a little over a year. You can find the majority of my articles appearing on the ProstateCancer.net and BladderCancer.net sites. I wanted to branch out again and write an article for Blood-cancer.com that talks about blood cancer and sexual health.

It seems like many people are not ready for the impact that blood cancer, or really any cancer, will have on their sexual health. Many people receiving cancer treatments report some type of sexual dysfunction, with the loss of desire being one of the most common issues. Let’s get into two issues of blood cancer: the blood cancer itself and treatments.

The emotional and physical impact of blood cancer

Let’s start with the psychological and emotional impact of blood cancer on your sexual health. There may be an unexpected level of stress within your relationship due to the new diagnosis, which may be caused by the uncertainty of the future. Other emotional issues could easily include depression, guilt, and anxiety. With all of this going on, it’s easy to understand why sexual health could be pushed to the back burner. What about the physical issues?

Having a low red blood cell count can make you tire easily and can cause feelings of shortness of breath. This is called cancer-related fatigue. Also, you may be concerned about getting an infection because of a low white blood cell count. For example, women can be more prone to developing vaginal yeast infections because of a weakened immune system, which could lead to discomfort, itching, and burning during vaginal intercourse.1

The impact of blood cancer treatments on sexual function

Cancer treatments themselves, including chemotherapy and other treatments, can cause emotional and physical problems that could lead to sexual problems and dysfunctions. For example, some may report being too nauseous and just too tired to engage in sexual activity.1,2 In men, chemotherapy is related to low testosterone, loss of desire, and erectile dysfunction.2 In women, chemotherapy can cause vaginal dryness, frequent yeast infections, and even early-onset menopause.1

Chemotherapy can also lead to hair loss and other changes to the body, which could affect one’s self-esteem and leave the individual wondering if their partner still finds them attractive.

Also, those who are getting chemotherapy should engage in safer sexual behaviors, including condom use and other barrier methods. Why, you ask? The chemicals in chemotherapy may be found in semen and vaginal fluids. This could be an unexpected change where you and your partner haven’t used condoms in years or decades and all of a sudden, you have to use them again.2

In closing

Please keep in mind that certain aspects of one’s sexuality may change depending on the type of blood cancer they have. Specific issues may call for a different type of sexual therapy or treatment and the same type of sexual therapy may not work at all. While I can provide suggestions, please consult your doctor about any sort of sexual health issues as they arise. Thank you for reading.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Sexual Health and Cancer Treatment: Women. Cancer.net. Available at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/dating-sex-and-reproduction/sexual-health-and-cancer-treatment-women
  2. Sexual Health and Cancer Treatment: Men. Cancer.net. Available at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/dating-sex-and-reproduction/sexual-health-and-cancer-treatment-men

Comments

  • Ann Harper moderator
    1 month ago

    Thank you for all the information. I was surprised to hear about having to have protection while on chemo. That is definitely something all doctors should share. Mine never did. Definitely good information to know.

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