I was at the clinic consulting with a couple where the wife will be undergoing chemotherapy. After we have discussed all the necessary preparations, the patient’s husband, with a soft tone in his voice and a tinge of shyness asked me “Doctor, can we have….you know….during chemotherapy?”. Without making him feel any more shy than he already was, I answered him yes in a professional and authoritative tone and with a reassuring look on my face that there was nothing wrong in bringing up that question.
It’s not uncommon during consultations with couples that the husband of a patient will bring up the question of whether they can have sex during treatment.
Generally, it is ok for patients to have sex while undergoing treatment. However, the partner needs to understand that the patient may not always be up to it. Cancer or its treatment may cause fatigue, irritability, low mood, pain, anxiety, hormonal changes, changes in body image which can affect a person’s desire for sex. This does not mean though that the patient is not craving for intimacy. It is in fact during these times that the patient’s need for closeness, support, reassurance and validation is at an all time high.
Women with cancer, especially breast cancer or any cancer of the genital tract may feel more self-conscious about their bodies or feel that they may have lost their femininity. Men with prostate cancer may feel insecure about their manhood. These feelings can add to a patient’s already heightened anxiety and sense of inadequacy for their partner.
It is important to realize is that there is more to intimacy than intercourse. Look for other ways of caring for and validating your partner such as kissing, cuddling, spending time together, holding, talking, smiling, hugging. What is important is that you make your partner feel that despite of what has happened, your esteem, love and respect for him or her has grown deeper which no amount of cancer will ever destroy.
Disclaimer: The information above is not intended to substitute for appropriate consultation with your doctor