Lymphoma treatment can impact your ability to have or enjoy sex. Chemotherapy or radiation treatment near the testicles may have lowered your testosterone levels and/or damaged blood flow to the penis, resulting in various sexual concerns such as the inability to keep a firm erection (also known as erectile dysfunction), penile pain, difficulty reaching or dry orgasm and loss of desire for sex.
Treatment (particularly radiation or intrathecal chemotherapy) near the brain stem can also damage the pituitary gland and lower testosterone levels. You may also be taking various supportive care medications such as medication for pain that have left you with a lack of desire to engage in sexual activity. In addition, other factors can impact your sexual health. These include your age, your weight, your blood pressure, your drinking or smoking habits, as well as various psychosocial issues.
These are some issues that you may encounter and suggestions to help alleviate them:
- Erectile dysfunction: This is usually caused by low testosterone levels or damage to blood vessels in the penis. Consult a urologist who has special training in treating men’s sexual problems. They may recommend medicated treatments, vacuum devices, penile injections, penile suppositories, penile prostheses, or other alternative treatments
- Lack of pleasure and orgasm: Cancer treatment is rarely the direct cause of decreased pleasure or ability to reach orgasm. This may be caused by medications such as antidepressants. This can also be due to emotions associated with erectile dysfunction or infertility. Ask your urologist or even a counsellor to help you through these issues
- Lack of desire, negative thoughts and feelings: Try to identify the cause of these emotions. For example, it may be caused by other feelings such as worry, pain, or fatigue. It may also be related to having difficulty with erections or it may be a side effect to pain medications. If it is the latter, ask your doctor to suggest alternative support medications
Many men find it difficult to discuss their sexual concerns with others; however, your doctor, or a specialist in sexual health, can help you overcome these issues. These healthcare professionals can recommend counseling, medication or surgery to help you.
Communication with your partner or a potential partner is also important. A vital part of your quality of life after your lymphoma experience is sexuality.