How common is it for cancer treatment to affect sexual health?

How common is it for cancer treatment to affect sexual health?

It’s very common. In fact, almost 9 in 10 cancer survivors experience sexual difficulties as a result of their cancer treatment, according to the results of a study presented in 2020 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

The study included 391 cancer survivors. About 81% of the respondents were women. Almost 67% of the entire group had breast cancer, 16% had prostate cancer, 6% had endometrial cancer, 4% had bladder cancer, and 2% had rectal cancer.
Overall, 87% of the respondents said they had sexual side effects of their cancer treatment. Over three-quarters of the respondents had had chemotherapy, 54% had had radiation therapy, and 47% had had hormone therapy.

The most commonly-reported problems in the study were:

  • painful intercourse,
  • body image concerns, and
  • orgasm difficulties.

However, other side effects are possible.

  • For example, many men experience erectile dysfunction (ED) following prostate cancer treatment.
  • Vaginal dryness is common in women after treatment for gynecological and breast cancer.
  • And both men and women may lose interest in sex or have trouble with arousal.
  • The emotional aspects of having cancer can affect sexuality, too. Anxiety, depression, and coping with changing relationships can all play a role.

If you are struggling with sexual problems after cancer, let your oncology team know. Many issues can be treated; however, healthcare providers might not always bring up the subject. Don’t hesitate to speak up.



Members Only


ISSM Update