According to the American Cancer Society, a little more than one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Some of those cancers will require treatment, such as chemo or radiation, while others will require surgeries in addition to medication. Cancer isn't the only illness that's treated with chemotherapy — blood disorders and autoimmune diseases are also treated with it. And unfortunately, resources on how to talk about these difficult diseases don't always bring up how chemotherapy can affect your sex drive.
"I had a very high sex drive before chemo, and it vanished for the two years during and after treatment due to chemo, Tamoxifen's side effects, and my self-esteem afterwards (which is VERY common)," Melanie Childers, breast cancer survivor and life coach, tells Bustle. "After that drought, [my sex life is] pretty normal again, even though I'm 42 now and going through peri-menopause."
Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer and other illnesses by targeting growing cells that quickly divide and spread — which is the M.O. of cancer cells. While radiation treatment focuses on a specific part of the body, chemo can make its way throughout the body, also affecting that healthy cells that happen to be fast-growing (such as hair follicles). For this reason, chemo can also cause nausea, skin issues, or other side effects, which can in turn impact your sex drive.
As Childers explains it, she now has a very exciting sex life. She wants others to know that what they might be experiencing during chemo isn't necessarily going to be that way forever. "It's possible to bring it back to life," Childers says.
Though everyone's experience won't be exactly the same, experts say there are certain ways chemo may affect your sex life — and certain ways to help bring it back.