“Is all sex during chemo safe? Is vaginal sex safe? What about anal?”
Cancer nurse Beth says...
On the whole, yes, sex during chemo is safe, but there are certain activities that are not safe at given times.
When you’re neutropenic (when your white blood cell count is low) you are at increased risk of infection. Also, when your platelets are low, you are at increased risk of bleeding. If either of these are the case, you should avoid anal sex or rough sex, as these can cause bleeding, bruising or infection. You should ask your nurses or doctors to let you know when you are most likely to be neutropenic or have low platelets.
Chemotherapy is excreted via bodily fluids, mostly within the first two days of chemo. Because of this, we would advise that you don’t cum inside someone else for 5 days after chemo. Alternatively you can use a condom and have fun. Also it is really important not to become pregnant or make someone pregnant if you are having chemotherapy treatment as this may harm an unborn baby.
Co-founder Brian says...
Beth’s answers are clear and actionable, so in many ways, we needn’t say more about it. But, it’s worth noting that the questions “Can I have sex while on chemo?” and “Will I pass chemo on to my partner?” are classics, and they feel like their answers are more urban legend than cold hard facts.
The persistence of the question, however, reminds the asker and the answerer that the body, while undergoing chemotherapy, can often be made to feel incredibly alien and medicalised – and when we ask the question, we want to know how and if this alien, medicalised body can ‘infect’ others. Susan Sontag (in 1978) talked about both cancer and its treatment in comparison to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other sci-fi classics.
In Japanese, the term for the experience of cancer is “gun to tomo ni ikiru / I live along with cancer”, almost like it’s a (horrific, annoying, traumatising) companion on a longer journey. This is instead of “I have cancer” or “I am suffering with cancer” which are more common in English. It’s a small semantic change, but maybe it can help reframe your experience. It makes it sound less like something you’re infected by and passing on via sexual fluids, and more like a walking companion who just won’t go away. GO AWAY ALREADY!