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Sexual Side Effects, Fertility and Pregnancy

Last update: 03/19/2014

Resources | Patient PerspectiveResearch News

Here we provide resources and reports on the sexual side effects of cancer therapy, pregnancy during treatment, and how to protect fertility.

In the News

CBS 2013:
Advocates push for straight talk about sex for cancer patients http://cbsn.ws/HQiFcX
YNN video: Fertility after cancer
Medscape: Chemotherapy Safe to Give During Pregnancy
ECCO: Chemo during pregnancy does NOT seem to
cause developmental problems in children


Sexual Side effects

Treatment &
Fertility | Pregnancy

Related Resources:

Anxiety and depression can affect sexuality PAL

Patient Perspectives on Sexuality:

Jama wrote: "Of note to anyone on chemo, it is recommended to use condoms even between married couples because of the chance of infection because of the low white cell counts. It is sort of like adding insult to injury to remind them to buy surgical ones. Stanford actually supplied us with condoms after that!!! I simply assumed that some patients had problems with infections and they were protecting me and took no insult away."

"There is a whole "untouched" group of subjects that patient advocates could tackle:


Sexual relationships during chemo


Sperm saving before chemo


Chemo induced impotence


Chemical castration in women 
(fried ovaries)


Chemo induced menopause"

~ Jama

Patient Perspective on 
Emotional side of Treatments
Post from CyberFamily support

Although I am not married, I can tell you that throughout my 7 rounds of CHOP if I had been married my wife would have been a very lonely lady. There was just no desire there. There are several things going on that all play a part.

First there is the chemotherapy itself. While I never got sick, and I called my CHOP a walk in the park, it still made me feel blah most of the time. To be blunt, the idea of sex just had no appeal throughout the whole six months I was on it. This did resolve itself several months after chemo was finished. I can't explain how or why, all I can say is that the chemo is wreaking havoc on the body and the hormones, are all out of whack, and the patient just has too much on their mind.

Then there is the emotional trauma, whether it is visible or not. Chemo is doing nasty things to our bodies, and our own image of our bodies. Everything from losing hair, to losing or gaining weight, to feeling fatigued, it all just adds up, and you start to wonder if you are the same person you used to be. The fatigue would be a major contributor to a lack of desire.

I know for me losing the hair was the worst part. I didn't mind being bald so much, but you lose the hair ALL OVER your body. It was so depressing getting out of the shower each day, and looking at the 12 year old pre-pubescent boy looking back at me in the mirror. I never much thought about my body hair before that, but I am a pretty sad sight when I am hairless. I would never have dared to let a spouse see me naked at that time :-) Luckily with CVP your husband is less likely to lose his hair. 

There is also the constant wondering if you are going to die or not, wondering if the side effects are permanent, and wondering if all your friends are going to abandon you, or if they will be supportive.

I don't think I ever sat around "thinking" about those things at the time. At least not consciously, but they are always at the back of your mind in some small way. So while outwardly I was a very positive unchanged person, inside I knew it wasn't all so perfect, and that just made me a bit more moody than usual.

At a time like this when there is so much stress in his life, his poor old brain is just not going to be in the mood, and when the brain isn't in the mood the body is not likely going to cooperate either.

Just be with him and enjoy ordinary intimacy like hand holding, hugging and just being together. Or explore new ways to be intimate without having to have sex. I expect you will find him returning to normal, or near normal a month or two after his last treatment. 

Just be patient and understanding and I am sure you will find your old husband again when this is over.

G D 
dx 09/98 follicular mixed cell, Stage IV
CHOP X 7, Radiation X 20; 09/98-05/99
SCT 04/17/2002


Fertility and Hodgkin lymphoma ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
MyOncoFertility.org myoncofertility.org/
FertileHOPE: Cancer & Fertility Referral Guide 
Cancer J. 2009: Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Fertility After Cancer
Sex After Transplants http://bit.ly/c2GvN3
Will My Sexual Function & Fertility Be Affected by Treatment?  cancer.org


Egg freezing
Preserving fertility uscivf.org
Fertility after treatment for Hodgkin's disease. Review. PMID: 12078896 PubMed
Using Lupron (GnRH Agonists) 
to preserve fertility during chemo?
About Lupron MedlinePlus
Use of GnRH analogs ((Lupron) for functional protection of the ovary and preservation of fertility during cancer treatment in adolescents: a preliminary report. Gynecol Oncol. 2001 Jun;81(3):391-7. PMID: 11371127 PubMed


Highly Recommended:

Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home: sexuality cancer.org
Is it safe for me to have sex with my husband while I'm undergoing chemotherapy?mayoclinic.com
Sex and Women with Cancer -- Overview http://www.cancer.org
Sex, sexuality and cancer
Cancer treatment for men: Possible sexual side effects mayoclinic.com/
Staying Germ-Free During Chemotherapy
Do Male Lymphoma Survivors Have Impaired Sexual Function?  http://bit.ly/6E3NTU  JCO, 2009
Prevention of gonadal damage during cytotoxic therapy. Ann Med. 1997 Jun;29(3):199-206. Review.
PMID: 9240625 PubMed

Pregnancy and Lymphoma

Pregnancy outcomes 
following treatment of cancer?
Few Risks To Newborn Offspring Of Parents Who Are Childhood Cancer Survivors, Studies Find http://bit.ly/2RbjHM 
Fertility and pregnancy after treatment for cancer during childhood or adolescence.
Cancer. 1993 May 15;71(10 Suppl):3392-9. Review. PMID: 8490888  PubMed
Pregnancy outcomes following treatment of cancer. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2002 Jan;22(1):43-4. PMID: 12521727  PubMed

Treating lymphoma when pregnant?

Lymphoma During Pregnancy
Lymphoma and pregnancy Q&As
Hodgkin's Lymphoma During Pregnancy Treatment Option Overview
Technical: Pregnancy and Commonly Used Drugs in Hematology Practice bit.ly/lJo3qb



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Research News

Sexuality after cancer treatment: What men can expect edition.cnn.com

Some sexual side effects of cancer treatment will resolve in a few weeks. Others may last for a year or two after treatment, and some will be permanent. Find out as much as you can about what's impeding your sexual function. This will help you feel more in control of the situation and help guide you to treatment options.
The effects of Rituxan treatment during pregnancy on a neonate.
Haematologica. 2006 Sep 7; PMID: 16963391
Safety of Rituxan therapy during the first trimester of pregnancy: a case history.
Eur J Haematol. 2004 Apr;72(4):292-5. PMID: 15089769
Sex After Transplants By Sally James cancerpage.com
Radiotherapy blow to fertility underestimated Eggs twice as sensitive to cancer-treating radiation.  - Nature.com 01_31_03
Prevention of menstruation with leuprorelin (GnRH agonist) in women undergoing myelosuppressive chemotherapy or radiochemotherapy for hematological malignancies: a pilot study. Leuk Lymphoma. 2001 Sep-Oct;42(5):1033-41. PMID: 11697620 PubMed
Prevention of hypermenorrhea (excessive menstration)with leuprolide in premenopausal women undergoing bone marrow transplantation. Am J Hematol. 1993 Apr;42(4):350-3. PMID: 8493984 - PubMed
(See left column for how to subscribe.)
Sexual functioning in long-term breast cancer survivors treated with adjuvant chemotherapy. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2002 Oct;75(3):241-8. PMID: 12353813 PubMed
Secondary Amenorrhea [no menstrual periods] After Hodgkin's Lymphoma 
Is Influenced by Age at Treatment, Stage of Disease, Chemotherapy Regimen, and the Use of Oral Contraceptives During Therapy: 

A Report From the German Hodgkin's Lymphoma Study Group. 
J Clin Oncol. 2005 Oct 20;23(30):7555-64. PMID: 16234521
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