Cancer and life as a couple

Cancer therapy can affect your affectivity and sex life in different ways, including:

  • Change in sexual desire and decreased interest
  • Mood swings, depression and irritability
  • Problems getting and maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Changes in your ejaculation

How do I deal with the changes that affect my sexual health?

It is important to know that there are physical and emotional factors, in addition to some medications, that can cause a decrease or loss of sexual desire, for example:

  • If you feel depressed or anxious
  • If you feel tired
  • If you are worried or embarrassed by physical changes
  • If you have a partner and both of you feel worried or anxious about your diagnosis and / or treatment.
  • Some side effects of hormonal cancer treatments

Try not to be embarrassed to talk to your doctor or nurse. Remember they will have talked

about these issues many times before. In addition to discussing available treatments, they can also tell you about local support groups or counseling services available in your area.

What can I do if I have a decreased interest in sex?

Identify the changes

The changes you experience when using cancer therapies can affect your physical appearance, physical performance, and emotional state. So it will always be important to identify the situations that directly affect you.

Try new activities

These changes should not negatively affect your emotional relationship as there are also other non-sexual ways of being close to your partner: you can start with simple actions like a hug or you can also try new activities together.

Remember that your partner is also dealing with this process with you, he or she may be experiencing fear, denial, anger, worry or anxiety about the future.

Talk about your thoughts and feelings

If you have a partner, talking about sexuality, your thoughts and feelings, can help you deal with the change. Talking about these issues is not always easy, even for a couple who have been together for a long time, but this could be an opportunity to bring them closer together and make them feel more secure in the face of changes and challenges.

To have good communication it is important to be heard and listen. Listening to the other person is a way of showing support. Remember that words are not the only way to communicate, it can also be done through gestures and displays of affection.

It’s okay to take some time

Some people prefer not to talk about it, other people may need time to process their emotions and concerns or feel more comfortable talking about it with another person or with a professional, any of these reactions is fine and it is important that you communicate it to your partner so that you understand it better.

If you find this difficult to discuss, it may be helpful to consult your physician for a referral to a trained practitioner or therapist.


Macmillan cancer support. Dealing with side effects of treatment for prostate cancer. Available on:

American Cancer Society. Side Effects – Hormonal therapy. Available on:

Cáceres et al., Manual for the cancer patient and their family. Barcelona, 2007.

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