Anal Cancer and Sexual Health for Men

Sex after Chemoradiation for Rectal or Anal Cancer

For anal cancer, the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy (chemoradiation) is usually the treatment of choice.  While chemoradiation is a necessary and effective treatment for anal cancer, these treatments often have the side effect of damaging nerves and blood vessels involved in forming an erection. This can result in erectile disfunction. Other common problems include difficulty controlling urination, chronic diarrhea (sometimes with leakage of stool), and fatigue.  If you are struggling with any of these side effects communicate this with your healthcare provider.  Iris Nurses are also available 24-7 to provide education and tips on managing treatment side effects.  

Radiation technology has improved a lot allowing for specific targeting of sites without as much effect on surrounding tissue.   Despite these improvements, it is still possible that neighboring regions such as the testicles could have residual radiation damage.  Since the testicles play a role in testosterone levels, it's possible that these levels could decrease in the years after treatment.  A decrease in testosterone can lead to a loss of desire, difficulty obtaining or keeping an erection, and trouble feeling aroused or reaching orgasm. If you have some or all of these symptoms, it may be worthwhile to get a blood test to see if some replacement hormones would help.  

Changes to sexual functioning after cancer can have an impact on your sense of identity, and self-worth.  These changes can affect your relationship with yourself, as well as the relationship you have with a spouse or significant other.  Discussing these changes and navigating them both physically and emotionally is an important part of the healing process. Our Iris Mental Health Therapists specialize in working with individuals after cancer and are available to provide you and your loved ones with support.