What You Should Know About Sex, Condoms, and Chemotherapy

Why You Should Use Condoms When You're Going Through Chemo

Torn packaging of wrapper containing a condom
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Do I Need to Use a Condom During Sex While Undergoing Chemotherapy?

I am a 37-year-old man who is in a monogamous relationship with a wonderful woman. I am about to start chemotherapy next week for multiple myeloma and was wondering if I needed to use a condom during sex. We have a great relationship and I want to keep the intimacy strong during treatment. She uses the birth control pill to prevent pregnancy, but I was wondering if my bodily fluids could somehow harm her. Should I use a condom if I am going through chemotherapy?

The Short Answer Is Yes

First, I commend you for attempting to maintain intimacy with your partner during treatment. Intimacy, whether it be sexual or not, is an important part of coping with having cancer and also treatment. Cancer can take a toll on the healthiest of relationships and staying intimate can help strengthen your bond.

If you are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment, it is usually recommended that you wear a condom for at least two days after treatment during any type of intercourse (vaginal, anal, or oral). Your doctor may even advise a longer time period. This is to prevent your partner from being exposed to any chemotherapy toxins that may be present in your semen.

Even though your partner is using an effective form of birth control, your doctor may advise you to use a condom throughout treatment. It is not advised to conceive a child while undergoing chemotherapy, whether you are male or female.

It is unknown whether the treatment might adversely affect fetal development. With directed use of birth control and the use of latex condoms, pregnancy is less likely to occur than if using birth control pills alone.

How Chemotherapy May Affect Your Sex Life

Beyond condom usage, it's important to keep a realistic perspective about how chemotherapy may affect your sex life.

Chemotherapy side effects aren't limited to hair loss and stomach upset; it can affect your sexuality in many ways.

The most commonly reported sexual side effect of chemotherapy is the loss of libido, which may be caused by the chemotherapy itself, or by the stress of having cancer and undergoing treatment. Medications used to combat treatment side effects can also affect the libido.

Erectile dysfunction can also be a temporary side effect of treatment. Like loss of libido, it can be caused by either the treatment itself, or by the mental stress of having cancer. If you experience erectile dysfunction during treatment, talk to your doctor about possible treatments. You may be a candidate for medication that can help with erectile dysfunction. 

Keep in mind that intimacy doesn't always have to imply intercourse. There are many ways to be intimate with your partner without having intercourse. It's important to be open and honest with your partner about any sexual side effects you may be experiencing, even if you feel embarrassed by them.

Learning to be sexual without intercourse can be a rewarding experience for a couple.


Effects of Cancer Treatment on Male Sexuality. Treatment Topics and Resources. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MIT/content/MIT_7_2x_Cancer_Treatments_Effects_On_Male_Sexuality.asp?sitearea=MIT

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