Sex and intimacy after treatment for male breast cancer

1. Changes to your sex life after a male breast cancer diagnosis
2. Why might I lose sexual desire during treatment?
3. Erection problems and changes to how you experience orgasm
4. Effects of chemotherapy on fertility for men
5. Help if you need it

1. Changes to your sex life after a male breast cancer diagnosis

Many men find that being diagnosed with male breast cancer and having treatment affects how they feel about sex and intimacy. This section looks at how the physical and emotional effects of diagnosis and treatment may affect your sex life and intimate relationships.

You may also find some of the information on the Prostate Cancer UK website useful. They have lots of information aimed at men on how to manage changes to your sex life caused by cancer and its treatments, in particular hormone therapy.

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2. Why might I lose sexual desire during treatment?

Many men being treated for breast cancer find their desire for sexual contact (libido) decreases.

You may want less sexual contact because of:

Loss of desire can continue after treatment, but as time goes on this should start to improve.

Sexual desire is only one of the reasons people choose to be sexually intimate. Other reasons can include showing their partner that they love them, to feel close to or loved by their partner, getting back a sense of normality, to release tension, or to give or receive comfort.

If you have a partner, you may want to maintain a level of physical closeness with them, even if your sexual activity decreased or stopped completely during and after your treatment. You may not feel like having sex, but you may be happy hugging, kissing or finding your own ways of being intimate. Sexual activity can also include touch and other signs of affection that don’t always lead to oral or full sex, but still result in pleasure. Taking turns giving each other a massage or taking a bath or shower together can be a way of being intimate.

Being able to communicate openly with your partner is important at this time. You may find it useful to read our information on how intimate relationships can be affected by breast cancer.

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3. Erection problems and changes to how you experience orgasm

Some men have difficulty getting an erection because of the effects of the hormone therapy tamoxifen. Usually this improves over time as the body adapts to the drug and should resolve when you stop taking tamoxifen. Erection problems may also occur if you’re feeling anxious or depressed.

It’s worth talking to your doctor if erection problems are troubling you as there are treatments that might help.

Your orgasms may feel different or less intense while you’re taking tamoxifen. This should also improve once you stop taking the drug.

You can find more information on treating erection problems on the NHS Choices website. Prostate Cancer UK also has lots of information on erection problems and other changes to your sex life caused by hormone therapy.

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4. Effects of chemotherapy on fertility

Chemotherapy can affect sperm production and this can lead to temporary or permanent infertility in men. Find out more about the effects of chemotherapy on fertility for men.

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5. Help if you need it

If you’re concerned about any issues relating to your sex life, it can help to talk to your hospital team, breast care nurse or GP in the first instance.

In some instances you may need specialist help, and sometimes it can be easier to talk to a healthcare professional than someone close to you. This may mean you, or you and your partner, seeing a counsellor or a therapist who deals specifically with sexual issues.

Your GP or breast care nurse should be able to help arrange this for you. Alternatively you can contact an organisation such as COSRT (College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists), Relate or Relationships Scotland.

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Last reviewed: June 2017
Next planned review begins 2019

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