Is it safe to have sex while undergoing chemotherapy?

Answer From Karthik Giridhar, M.D.

It's best to discuss any concerns about chemotherapy and sex with your doctor, who's familiar with your individual situation. In general, however, it's usually OK to have sex while undergoing chemotherapy — as long as you're feeling up to it.

Many factors can influence decisions about chemotherapy and sex. Here are some things to consider:

  • What type of cancer do you have? Cancers of the genital tract, urinary tract, anus or rectum may require special caution when it comes to sex. After a procedure or therapy that affects these areas, your doctor may recommend abstaining from sexual activity until healing is complete.
  • What type of chemotherapy are you receiving? Different chemotherapy drugs cause different side effects. For example, if chemotherapy reduces the levels of your germ-fighting white blood cells, you may not be protected from bacteria that can be introduced into the body during sexual intercourse. Your doctor may recommend that you avoid sex until your white blood cell counts rise to safe levels.

    If your chemotherapy causes a low platelet count, intercourse could cause bleeding. If your platelet count is extremely low, severe bleeding could occur.

  • Is pregnancy possible? Pregnancy is strongly discouraged during chemotherapy due to the potential effects on the developing baby. If it's possible for you or your partner to become pregnant during sex, your doctor will likely encourage you to choose a reliable method of birth control.
  • Are you feeling up to it? During chemotherapy, fatigue or other side effects, including effects on hormonal levels, may decrease your interest in sex. If you're not interested in intercourse, remember that there's more to an intimate relationship than sex. Look for other ways to express affection, such as kissing, cuddling or other shared activities.

With

Karthik Giridhar, M.D.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

April 07, 2021 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  2. Acute myelogenous leukemia
  3. Adjuvant therapy for cancer
  4. Anal cancer
  5. Atypical cells: Are they cancer?
  6. Beating Ovarian Cancer
  7. Biopsy procedures
  8. Bladder cancer
  9. Infographic: Bladder Cancer
  10. What is bladder cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  11. Bladder cancer FAQs
  12. Bladder cancer treatment options
  13. Infographic: Blood Cancer Awareness
  14. Blood Cancers and Disorders
  15. Bone cancer
  16. Bone metastasis
  17. Brain tumor
  18. What is a brain tumor? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  19. Brain tumor FAQs
  20. Breast cancer
  21. Breast Cancer
  22. Breast cancer chemoprevention
  23. Breast Cancer Education Tool
  24. Common questions about breast cancer treatment
  25. Breast cancer radiation: Can it cause dry skin?
  26. Infographic: Breast Cancer Risk
  27. Breast cancer staging
  28. Breast cancer types
  29. Infographic: Breast Reconstruction Options
  30. Dr. Wallace Video
  31. Dr. Mark Truty (surgery, MN) better outcomes with chemo
  32. CA 125 test: A screening test for ovarian cancer?
  33. Cancer
  34. Cancer
  35. Cancer blood tests
  36. Myths about cancer causes
  37. Infographic: Cancer Clinical Trials Offer Many Benefits
  38. Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping
  39. Cancer-related fatigue
  40. Cancer pain: Relief is possible
  41. Cancer risk: What the numbers mean
  42. Cancer surgery
  43. Cancer survival rate
  44. Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment
  45. Cancer survivors: Late effects of cancer treatment
  46. Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment
  47. Cancer survivors: Reconnecting with loved ones after treatment
  48. Cancer treatment decisions: 5 steps to help you decide
  49. Cancer treatment myths
  50. Cancer Vaccine Research
  51. Carcinoid syndrome
  52. Castleman disease
  53. Cervical cancer
  54. What is cervical cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  55. Cervical cancer FAQs
  56. Cervical dysplasia: Is it cancer?
  57. Chemo Targets
  58. Chemotherapy
  59. Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment
  60. Chemotherapy nausea and vomiting: Prevention is best defense
  61. Chemotherapy side effects: A cause of heart disease?
  62. Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
  63. Choroid plexus carcinoma
  64. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  65. Chronic myelogenous leukemia
  66. Collecting Pennies Through the Pain
  67. Colon cancer
  68. Colon Cancer Family Registry
  69. Colon cancer screening: At what age can you stop?
  70. Colon cancer screening
  71. Colorectal Cancer
  72. Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?
  73. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
  74. Cancer-related diarrhea
  75. Dragon Boats and Breast Cancer
  76. Eating during cancer treatment: Tips to make food tastier
  77. Embryonal tumors
  78. Endometrial cancer
  79. Ependymoma
  80. Esophageal cancer
  81. Infographic: Esophageal Cancer
  82. Esophageal Cancer
  83. Ewing sarcoma
  84. Fertility preservation
  85. Frequent sex: Does it protect against prostate cancer?
  86. Gallbladder cancer
  87. Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
  88. Genetic testing for breast cancer: Psychological and social impact
  89. GI Stents
  90. Glowing Cancer Surgery
  91. Gynecologic Cancers
  92. Hairy cell leukemia
  93. Have brown or Black skin? Use sunscreen
  94. Head and Neck Cancer
  95. Head and Neck Cancer Transoral Surgery
  96. Head and neck cancers
  97. Heart cancer: Is there such a thing?
  98. High-dose vitamin C: Can it kill cancer cells?
  99. Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
  100. Hodgkin's vs. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: What's the difference?
  101. How plant-based food helps fight cancer
  102. Infographic: HPV Related Oral Cancers
  103. Inflammatory breast cancer
  104. Infographic: Innovative Rectal Cancer Treatments
  105. Invasive lobular carcinoma
  106. Leukemia
  107. Liver cancer
  108. Infographic: Liver Cancer
  109. What is liver cancer? An expert explains
  110. Liver cancer FAQs
  111. Infographic: Liver Transplant Bile Duct Cancer
  112. Living with Brain Tumors
  113. Long Term Brain Cancer Survivor
  114. Low blood counts
  115. Lung cancer
  116. Infographic: Lung Cancer
  117. Lung Cancer
  118. Lung nodules: Can they be cancerous?
  119. Magic mouthwash
  120. Male breast cancer
  121. What is breast cancer? An expert explains
  122. Measles Virus as a Cancer Fighter
  123. Melanoma
  124. Merkel cell carcinoma
  125. Mesothelioma
  126. Monoclonal antibody drugs
  127. Mort Crim and Cancer
  128. Mouth cancer
  129. What is mouth cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  130. Mouth cancer FAQs
  131. Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment: How to cope
  132. Multiple myeloma
  133. Infographic: Multiple Myeloma
  134. Myelofibrosis
  135. Myelofibrosis
  136. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  137. Neuroblastoma
  138. Neuroendocrine tumors
  139. Neuroendocrine Tumors NETs
  140. Neurofibromatosis
  141. New immunotherapy approved for metastatic bladder cancer
  142. No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment
  143. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  144. Osteosarcoma
  145. Living with an ostomy
  146. Ovarian cancer
  147. Ovarian cancer: Still possible after hysterectomy?
  148. Paget's disease of the breast
  149. Pancreatic cancer
  150. Pancreatic Cancer
  151. What is pancreatic cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  152. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  153. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  154. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  155. Pap test: Can it detect ovarian cancer?
  156. Paulas story A team approach to battling breast cancer
  157. Peripheral nerve tumors
  158. Pheochromocytoma
  159. Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?
  160. Pineoblastoma
  161. Pink Sisters
  162. Pomegranate juice: A cure for prostate cancer?
  163. Prostate Cancer
  164. Prostate cancer
  165. Prostate cancer: Does PSA level affect prognosis?
  166. What is prostate cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  167. Infographic: Prostate Cancer: Choline c-11
  168. Prostate cancer metastasis: Where does prostate cancer spread?
  169. Prostate cancer prevention
  170. Prostate cancer FAQs
  171. Infographic: Proton Beam Brain Tumor
  172. Proton Beam Therapy
  173. Punk Guitarist Survives Brain Tumor
  174. Rectal cancer
  175. Recurrent breast cancer
  176. Retinoblastoma
  177. Robotic bladder surgery
  178. Salivary gland tumors
  179. Infographic: Scalp Cooling Therapy for Cancer
  180. Scientists propose a breast cancer drug for some bladder cancer patients
  181. Scrotal masses
  182. Self-Image During Cancer
  183. Skin cancer
  184. Infographic: Skin Cancer
  185. Skin Cancer Reconstruction
  186. Melanoma pictures to help identify skin cancer
  187. Radiation simulation
  188. Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
  189. Soft tissue sarcoma
  190. Spinal cord tumor
  191. Spray tanning? Hold your breath
  192. Stomach cancer
  193. Infographic: Stomach Cancer
  194. What is stomach cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  195. Stomach cancer FAQs
  196. Summer sun: Know the danger zone
  197. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  198. Testicular cancer
  199. Testicular microlithiasis
  200. Thalidomide: Research advances in cancer and other conditions
  201. The Long Race Beating Cancer
  202. Throat cancer
  203. Thyroid cancer
  204. Thyroid Cancer
  205. What is thyroid cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  206. Thyroid cancer FAQs
  207. Tumor vs. cyst: What's the difference?
  208. Vaginal cancer
  209. Vertebral tumor
  210. Melanoma — Early stage and advanced melanoma
  211. How cancer spreads
  212. PICC line placement
  213. Skin cancer — How skin cancer develops
  214. Vulvar cancer
  215. Weight Loss After Breast Cancer
  216. When cancer returns: How to cope with cancer recurrence
  217. Wilms' tumor
  218. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome