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Chemotherapy: FOLFOX

FOLFOX and Sex

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Both sexes

  • During a continuous infusion of FOLFOX, the infusion itself is no reason to avoid sex – just be careful not to disturb the set up. 
  • In addition to the normal fatigue and lack of interest that may be caused by your treatment, your body and self image have likely been altered due to colorectal cancer. Physical changes can affect how others react to you, which can affect your body image. Not everyone knows how to react ot people who have had cancer or who have physical changes from cancer or its treatment. Some people will react negatively, and that can cause hurt feelings and discomfort. Having a strong, positive body image may help you worry less about how other people react to your physical appearance. For tips about coping with a changing body image, click here.
  • Let your spouse or partner know how you feel. Ask your partner to do the same. 
    • A partner's concerns or fears also can affect the sexual relationship. 
    • If either of you wants more information about sex, speak with your doctor and/or nurse. 
    • If it is hard to talk to each other about sex or cancer or both, consider talking with a mental health counselor who can help the two of you communicate more openly. For information about choosing a mental health counselor, click here
  • Other forms of intimacy, such as cuddling, are a good substitute during this period of time. For information, see Sex and Intimacy.
  • If you are undergoing radiation or surgery, avoid contact with sensitive areas.
  • If you have an ostomy, click here for tips about having sex. 

Even if you are not interested in sex, it couldn’t hurt to let the other person know you still find him or her sexy.


  • Chemotherapy  may lower the number of sperm cells, reduce sperm cells' ability to move, or cause other changes. These changes can result in short- or long-term infertility. Infertility affects a man's ability to father a child, but does not affect his ability to have sex.
  • Men who are getting chemotherapy should use birth control during treatment because chemo may have harmful effects on chromosomes of sperm cells. Ask your doctor when you can stop using birth control for this reason.
  • If you are reading this before undergoing chemo, consider banking sperm if you want to have children in the future. To learn more, click here 


Chemo can damage the ovaries and reduce the amount of hormones they produce. As a result, a woman may have the following side effects:

  • Your menstrual periods may become irregular or stop completely during treatment.
  • You may have menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes and itching, burning, or dryness of vaginal tissues. These tissue changes can make intercourse uncomfortable. The symptoms often can be relieved by using a water-based vaginal lubricant.
  • You may become Infertile (unable to become pregnant). Whether this happens and how long it lasts depends on many factors, including the type of drug, the doses given, and your age. It is important to discuss this possibility BEFORE you start treatment.

NOTE: Women: You may be more likely than normal to get vaginal infections. To help prevent infection:

  • Avoid oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly.
  • Always use a condom for sexual intercourse 
  • Wear cotton underwear and pantyhose with a ventilated cotton lining
  • Don't wear tight slacks or shorts. 

Your doctor also may prescribe a vaginal cream or suppository to reduce the chances of infection. If you do get an infection, it should be treated right away.

For information about couples, click here

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