The Benefits of Exercise During Cancer Recovery

Many people resolve in the new year to get more exercise. Today we are delighted to provide information from Karen Wonders, Ph.D., FACSM, a member of the Triage Cancer Speakers Bureau and Executive Director of Maple Tree Cancer Alliance.  

Cancer and its associated treatments often result in long-term physical and Exercise-after-cancerpsychological side effects that impact the survivor’s quality of life. More than two decades of research support the efficacy of exercise and positive physiological and psychological changes in cancer survivors. These include improvements in VO2 max, which in turn improve heart and lung function and promote a healthy blood pressure, blood volume, and gas exchange. In addition, improvements in quality of life, muscular strength and endurance, fatigue reduction, anxiety, depression, body image, immune function and emotional well-being have been reported. In response to this overwhelming research, organizations like the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Commission on Cancer, and American Cancer Society have recommend that exercise serve as an integral part of an individual’s cancer care plan.

Patients should talk with their health care team prior to starting an exercise regimen. Once clearance is obtained, the ideal exercise program would be individualized to uniquely meet each patient’s strengths and weaknesses. Each person responds differently to treatment, and it is important for the cancer exercise trainer to understand and identify limitations that could hinder patient progress. The overall goal of the exercise program should be to minimize the general de-conditioning that often results from cancer treatment so that the cancer treatments are better tolerated.  In general, the exercise prescription should include a slow progression and demonstrate adaptability to changes in the patient’s health status, which frequently will change from day-to-day during treatment.

Each exercise training session should include a whole-body workout that targets all the major muscle groups, and consist of the following components:

  • Warm up: Begin each session with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up that stimulates blood flow to the working muscles. Warm-up activities may include walking or jogging to increase the body temperature and other physiologic responses, as well as decrease the chance of injury. Warm-up activities are also important to help ensure that the muscles and cardiovascular system are prepared for the activities to come in the training session.
  • Aerobic Component: ACSM recommends aerobic training 3-5 days each week, for 20-60 minutes each session. Appropriate modes of aerobic exercise include walking, cycling, or swimming (if infection is not a concern). During the aerobic component of exercise, it is important to frequently monitor blood pressure and heart rate. If the patient is on a medication that effects heart rate, the Borg Scale of Exertion may be used to monitor intensity. Based on this scale, a light-to-moderate intensity (RPE of 11 to 14) should be encouraged. If dizziness, nausea, or chest pain occurs, all exercise should be stopped. Frequent short breaks are sometimes encouraged to accommodate therapy-related fatigue.
  • Resistance Training: The type of resistance exercise performed will depend on the patient’s range of motion, tissue removal, and wound healing. Ideally, the patient should strive for 2-3 days/week of 1-3 sets, 8-12 reps per exercise. Appropriate modes include free weights, machines, resistance bands, as well as traditional body weight exercises. ACSM recommends at least 48 hours of rest between each resistance training session. Therefore, it may be advisable to plan a whole-body approach to resistance training, where all major muscle groups are targeted in one day. If the patient is unwilling or unable to participate in traditional modes of strength training, Yoga or Pilates may serve as an alternative form of strength exercise.
  • Flexibility Training: Aerobic exercise should be followed up by static stretching and range of motion exercises for all major muscle groups. Muscles should be stretched to the point of mild discomfort and held for 10-30 seconds per stretch.
  • Cool Down: Cool-down activities provide a reduction in injury risk occurring after an intense bout of exercise. The cool down should consist of less intense exercises and stretches to relax and lengthen the muscle and promote range of motion. The cool-down allows for a gradual reduction in the level of metabolic activity achieved during exercise training.

Initially, the intensity of exercise will depend on the patient’s functional status and exercise history prior to cancer diagnosis. Typically, previously active cancer patients may continue their exercise regimen, although intensity may need to be decreased during treatment.  Progression should consist of increases in frequency and duration rather than intensity.

Maple Tree Cancer Alliance is a national organization with a growing platform that can help patients get started with an exercise program. For more information about our programs, check out our website: www.mapletreecanceralliance.org.

With the right support in place, the patient will be encouraged to adopt an active lifestyle for life!

Triage Cancer Mourns a Great Loss

jhollandDr. Jimmie Holland, a pioneer in the field of psycho-oncology, served as a member of the Triage Cancer Scientific Advisory Council.

Words cannot adequately express the loss. Not only was Dr. Holland a valued advisor and supporter, she was a role model for us all. During her life Dr. Holland shattered glass ceilings and truly improved the lives of many.

To learn more about her life and work: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/04/obituaries/jimmie-holland-who-cared-for-the-cancer-patients-mind-dies-at-89.html

We thank her for her service to the cancer community. We will miss her greatly.

What Influences Initial Treatment Decisions?

There is a research study being conducted out of Stanford University in California looking at factors affecting breast cancer treatment decisions. Read more about the study and please spread the word to anyone you think may be interested.

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We need women living in (or willing to travel to) the San Francisco Bay Area who were diagnosed within the last 12 months with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or stage I-III breast cancer to participate in a study on factors affecting breast cancer treatment decisions.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer face many treatment decisions about how to treat the affected breast and whether they should remove the unaffected one. A research team at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California, wants to learn more about the thoughts and feelings that influence women’s treatment decisions.

Please read further to learn more about what’s involved and who can participate. If you are not interested in participating but know someone who may be, please help us pass it on!

What’s the study about?

The goal of this study is to better understand what women are thinking about and feeling as they decide on their cancer treatments. The results of this study may help researchers develop new interventions that may better assist women newly diagnosed with breast cancer with their treatment decisions.

What’s involved?

Screening for eligibility If you decide to sign up for the Treatment Decision Study, the research team will email you a link to participate in a two-part online screening survey (approximately 60 minutes to complete both parts). Afterwards, they will contact you to review your survey responses to determine your eligibility for study participation.

Procedures After Study Enrollment   If eligible, you will be asked to go to Stanford University in Stanford, California, for 3 baseline study visits that will take a total of approximately 8 hours (for participants traveling from farther away, the 3 visits may be combined into 1 or 2 visits). After completion of the baseline study visits, there will be 3 online/at-home follow-ups that are six months apart from each other and will take about 1 to 2 hours to complete each.

  • Questionnaires Complete a set of online questionnaires at home (at baseline, 6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-ups). The questionnaires will take approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
  • Saliva samples Provide saliva samples (at baseline, 6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-ups). The saliva sample collection will be done at your home. At baseline, it will take approximately 1 hour total over the course of 3 days. At the 6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-ups, it will take a total of 15 minutes over the course of 1 day.
  • MRI Brain Scan and Related Tasks Participate in various emotion related tasks while undergoing a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan of the head at Stanford (at baseline only). fMRI is a non-invasive scan. This test will take about 3.5 hours (1 hour preparation, 2 hours in the scanner, and 30 minutes of debriefing).
  • Behavioral Tasks Complete behavioral tasks at Stanford (at baseline only; approximately 1.5 hours). Each of the behavioral tasks is computerized and involves responding to various graphics, words, and/or letters.
  • Provide 1 tube of blood (at baseline).

The Stanford research team will provide participants with a total of $550 for study completion.  If you are traveling from afar, the team will cover one night of your accommodations.  Participants diagnosed within the last 6 months may also receive compensation for airfare.

Who is conducting the study?

David Spiegel, MD, Amit Etkin, MD, PhD, James Gross, PhD, and Allison Kurian, MD, MSc, Stanford University School of Medicine. The study is funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Where?

Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Who can participate?

You can sign up for the Treatment Decision Study screening surveys if you match ALL of the following MAIN categories:

  • You are a woman 18 years of age or older
  • You were diagnosed with one-sided DCIS or Stage I-III breast cancer within 12 months of study enrollment
  • You are proficient enough in English to be able to fill out questionnaires and participate in the required tasks
  • You are a US citizen or resident (eligible to receive payment for participation)
  • You are willing to participate in a fMRI assessment
  • You live near or are willing to travel to the Stanford, California area.

If you are interested in study participation, please click on the link below to enter your contact information on a Stanford University secure site. You will receive their screening survey shortly after completion of the contact form.

https://is.gd/StanfordTreatmentDecisionStudy

Cancer Hope Network: talk with someone who’s been there.

Triage Cancer believes strongly in partnership. There are so many wonderful organizations in our community and today we are delighted to be highlighting the Cancer Hope Network. Cancer Hope Network provides one-on-one support for cancer patients and their loved ones. Because no one should face cancer alone.

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After weeks (months!?) of tests and scans and sleepless nights spent worrying, the doctor sits across the desk from you, looks up from the chart on her desk and says, “Unfortunately, it’s cancer.”Cancer Hope Network

Your care team recommends a new treatment protocol. You’ve heard horror stories of the side effects it brings.

Your beloved spouse has reached an especially difficult point in their treatment. As a caregiver, you find yourself physically and emotionally exhausted.

More than 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year. Millions more will be treated. If you’re reading this post, chances are, you’ve experienced a moment like the ones above. If you haven’t, your loved one has.

Getting a cancer diagnosis can be time-stopping, world-spinning, forcing you to make choices between treatment options, worrying about side effects and facing fears about the future. It is, as they say, a lot.

That’s where Cancer Hope Network comes in. For more than 30 years, CHN has trained cancer survivors and their caregivers as Support Volunteers. Our 400+ volunteers have faced more than 80 cancer types. They’ve completed courses of chemotherapy and rounds of radiation, helped pioneer treatments and medications as clinical trial participants, received stem cell transplants, faced bisections, ostomy bags and surgeries. They’ve battled the crippling fear of leaving their children alone and grappled with the heart-wrenching realization they may never have children of their own.

They’ve been caregivers like Anne, a retired school secretary with grandchildren in Alabama. She’s a bladder cancer survivor who cared for her beloved husband through his last days of his own fight with bladder cancer. She encourages patients to keep the faith, “They’re coming out with new research, new information and drugs every day.” She’s also a voice of reason, reminding caregivers “You have to call and get help…You’re a person. You’re a human. You simply cannot do it alone.”

Others are survivors like Karla, a 7-year stomach cancer survivor who found purpose in sharing the lessons she’s learned. “Now that I had learned to eat and survived, I wanted to help.”

Patients and loved ones may contact Cancer Hope Network by calling 877-HOPENET (877.467.3638) or visiting cancerhopenetwork.org.  They’ll work with a member of our Patient Services Team to connect with the Support Volunteer whose experience most closely mirrors their own.

Whatever the challenge, chances are a CHN Support Volunteer has faced it. They understand the fine balance between gratitude and the survivors’ guilt faced by the “lucky ones” who are here to talk about it. They’re working through the challenges of survivorship and cancer’s new normal – and are willing to share.

Support Volunteers’ passion is to lend a listening ear and supportive presence for others on cancer’s journey. Their commitment is that no one face cancer alone.

It’s a commitment that pays off with satisfied, encouraged patients. “If all your volunteers are like the one I spoke to, then you have exceptional people volunteering for you,” reads one patient survey. “That make the illness I’m going through easier to contend with!”

“My volunteer was very informative and eased my real fears about my CLL,” another recalls. “It was wonderful speaking with someone dealing with the same blood-related disease. His knowledge helped to calm my nerves.”

Patients and loved ones may contact Cancer Hope Network by calling 877-HOPENET (877.467.3638) or visiting cancerhopenetwork.org.  They’ll work with a member of our Patient Services Team to connect with the Support Volunteer whose experience most closely mirrors their own.

The Twelve Sites of Social Security

By Essie Landry
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Sierra West Area

Gathering with family and friends during the holiday season reminds us we’re part of aThe Twelve Sites of Social Security strong community. And sometimes, in the spirit of the season, we break into song. Our take on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” — a holiday favorite since 1780 — highlights the national community we care for all year long. We call it “The Twelve Sites of Social Security.”

For the first site of Social Security, we give to you: our home page, www.socialsecurity.gov. It’s the place to go for all things Social Security. Everything you could want — from online services and benefit screening tools to publications and frequently asked questions — you can find all these and more on this site.

For the second site of Social Security, we give to you: our hub for Social Security news and updates at our blog, Social Security Matters at blog.socialsecurity.gov.

For the third site of Social Security, we give to you: an easy way to learn how to replace your Social Security card at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. And in some states, you can replace it online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount!

For the fourth site of Social Security, we give to you: an online application for retirement benefits that you can complete and submit in as little as 15 minutes at www.socialsecurity.gov/applytoretire.

For the fifth site of Social Security, we give to you: five estimates of your future Social Security benefits! Or as many estimates as you would like using different scenarios. Get instant, personalized estimates of your future benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

For the sixth site of Social Security, we give to you: a convenient way to apply for disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.

For the seventh site of Social Security, we give to you: fun and informative videos on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/socialsecurityonline.

For the eighth site of Social Security, we give to you: Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs. You can learn more and apply for a subsidy online at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

For the ninth site of Social Security, we give to you: our convenient publication library with online booklets and pamphlets on numerous subjects, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

For the tenth site of Social Security, we give to you: one of our most popular social media outlets, our Facebook page. This is where we engage thousands of customers and you can join the conversation at www.facebook.com/socialsecurity.

For the eleventh site of Social Security, we give to you: answers to your Social Security related questions at our Frequently Asked Questions page at www.socialsecurity.gov/faq.

On the twelfth site of Social Security (and we saved the best for last): open your own personal my Social Security account, which will enable you to verify your earnings, get future benefit estimates, obtain benefit verification letters, update your Social Security information, and more at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

And a partridge in a pear tree! Find all of this and more (except the partridge and pear tree) at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Don’t Waste Your 2017 FSA Dollars!

Do you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)? Is there still money in it that you Flexible Spendinghaven’t spent in 2017? Don’t let those pre-tax dollars go to waste!

With an FSA, you can pay for medical expenses for you, your spouse, children under 27, and other dependents. In 2017, you can save up to $2,600 in your FSA, and owe no income taxes on your contributions.

If you do have money leftover in your FSA at the end of the plan year, your employer can allow you to either take an extra two-and-half months to use the money in your FSA, or allow you to roll $500 over to the next year.

If you need to spend down your account, think creatively about how to use that money. For example, do you have a copy of your medical records? It is always a good idea to have one. If your health care providers charge a fee for copying your records, that is something that you can pay for out of your FSA account!

Here are some other things that you can pay for through your FSA account:

  • Acupuncture treatments
  • Annual physical exams
  • Bandages and other medical supplies
  • Birth control
  • Blood pressure monitors
  • Body scans
  • Breast pumps
  • Breast reconstruction surgery
  • Capital improvements to your home, such as ramps, railings, and support bars
  • Childbirth classes
  • Chiropractic care
  • Cholesterol test kits
  • Contact lenses and eyeglasses
  • Copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for dental, medical, vision and prescription coverage
  • Dental treatment, including teeth cleaning, but not teeth whitening
  • Dentures
  • Diabetic monitors, test kits, strips and supplies
  • Diagnostic devices such as a blood sugar test kit
  • Eye exams
  • Eye surgery, including laser eye surgery and Lasik
  • Fertility treatments and monitors
  • First aid kits
  • Flu shots
  • Guide dog or other service animal (buying, training, and maintaining)
  • Hearing aids and batteries
  • Insulin
  • Lab fees
  • Mileage for travel to and from health care appointments
  • Monitors and test kits
  • Night guards
  • Nursing services
  • Orthodontia
  • Over-the-counter reading glasses
  • Physical therapy
  • Pregnancy test kit
  • Prescription sunglasses
  • Prosthesis
  • Psychiatric care
  • Psychologists and therapy
  • Stop-smoking programs
  • Sunscreen
  • Vaccinations and immunizations
  • Walking aids like canes, walkers, and crutches
  • Weight-loss program (if it’s a treatment for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician)
  • Wheelchairs
  • Wigs (upon the advice of a physician)
  • X-rays

While 87% of employers with 500+ employees offer FSAs, only 21% of eligible employees take advantage of them, according to the Mercer 2016 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans.

Click here for more information about FSAs and Health Care Spending Accounts (HSAs).

Need Insurance for 2018? Don’t Miss Out!

Open enrollment to buy private health insurance coverage for 2018 through Miss-Out-Smallwww.HealthCare.gov ends on Friday. Note: Medicaid applications are accepted year round.

But don’t wait until the last minute, to avoid any potential issues, like the website crashing with last minute sign-ups.

Crucial news you can use:

Were you impacted by the Equifax data breach? Did you freeze your credit report, to protect your credit? This may actually slow down your ability to sign up for health insurance coverage, because www.HealthCare.gov actually uses credit reports to verify your identity.  There is a workaround, but it make take your application longer, so don’t wait to enroll.

Do you live in one of these states?

  • California, D.C., Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island – November 1 to January 31
  • Colorado – November 1 to January 12
  • Connecticut – November 1 to December 22
  • Maryland – November 1 to December 22
  • Minnesota – November 1 to January 14
  • Washington – November 1 to January 1

You have more time to sign up for coverage, but if you want your coverage to start on January 1, 2018, then you need to sign up by December 15.

Live in an area affected by the recent hurricanes?

Then you might have more time, too.  Read more here.

You may qualify for financial assistance.

For 2018, 8 in 10 people have Marketplace health insurance options for $75 or less, a month. This is mostly due to the premium tax credits available to people based on their income level.

Even though the Administration has said that they will no longer pay the insurance companies back for providing cost-sharing subsidies (aka cost-sharing reductions), the insurance companies still have to provide those discounts to consumers.

Is your 2017 plan not available for 2018?

If the health insurance plan that you have now is no longer being offered in 2018, you need to go to the Marketplace to see what your new options are and pick the best plan for you.  If you don’t, you will likely be automatically enrolled in a new plan that might be more expensive or not cover your providers.  It is crucial you take the time to shop around to make sure you get the coverage you need.

Find health insurance confusing?

Then watch our short video which breaks down the key things you need to know.

You can also watch our webinar on choosing a health insurance policy.

Understanding Health Insurance: Self-funded Plans vs. Funded Plans

Self-Funded Plans

Do you get coverage through your employer? Do you know which type of plan you have? You should.

But, the truth is, most people don’t.

For most people, this is a totally foreign concept.  We are more familiar with different premiums, different levels of coverage, different insurance company names, but whether or not your plan is self-funded or funded may be a new concept.

These are two ways in which employers provide health insurance benefits for their employees:

  • Funded plan: also called fully insured, these plans are when an employer contracts with a state-regulated insurance company, and the insurance company assumes the risk of your medical expenses. So, an employer buys coverage for its employees from an insurance company.
  • Self-funded plan: also called a self-insured plan, these plans are set up by the employer to pay the medical bills of their employees directly.

Though self-funded plans are most common among large companies, smaller businesses are beginning to self-fund. The big reason for this is cost.  It is cheaper to self-fund a plan because self-funded plans and are often exempt from state-mandated benefits. This means that in most cases, the only consumer protections for the people in these plans is whatever the federal law provides.

For instance, in California and 20 other states, there are laws related to surprise medical bills. These laws protect consumers from surprise bills from out-of-network doctors like anesthesiologists or emergency room doctors. There is no federal law regarding surprise medical billing.

How do I know if my plan is self-funded?

This is a question for your HR representative or whomever administers your employee benefits.  You probably won’t be able to tell from your insurance card, because most companies that self-fund still contract with an insurance company to administer the plan (pay claims, mail out EOB’s, etc.).  So whether you in a self-funded plan or funded plan, you may still have a typical insurance card from a company (e.g., Aetna, Humana, etc.). But keep in mind, if you work for a large company, with thousands of employees, there is a strong likelihood that you are in a self-funded plan.

What do I do if I am unhappy with a coverage decision in a self-funded plan?

  1. Contact the customer service number listed on your card.
  2. If your situation is not resolved, call the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) through the Department of Labor at 866-444-3272 or contact them online.
  3. If EBSA doesn’t help in a timely manner, many states have consumer assistance programs to help you navigate insurance problems. They can assist you in filing an appeal and be an advocate. Visit http://TriageCancer.org/StateResources for information in your state.

Don’t be too concerned if you are in a self-funded plan.  Large companies want happy employees, so they often write protections right into their plans.  Just be aware, because there is a difference in which laws may or may not apply to your plan.

Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage: Know the Difference?

There are two ways to access Medicare coverage: Original Medicare and Medicare Medicare advantageAdvantage Plans.

Currently, 58 million people in the United States are enrolled in Medicare — of which 19 million are enrolled in Medicare Advantage Plans.

Obviously there is a great confusion about all things Medicare.  With the end of Medicare open-enrollment coming up on December 7th, we wanted to take this time to explain your Medicare options.

For more information about Medicare basics, read our Quick Guide to Medicare or watch our Medicare webinar.

If you aren’t familiar with Medicare Advantage plans, you are not alone.

  • 65% of seniors on Medicare are unfamiliar with Medicare Advantage
  • 49% percent of those enrolled in Medigap plans say the option of Medicare Advantage was not made clear to them when researching Medicare coverage options
  • 55% of those enrolled in Original Medicare say they either do not understand or do not know the difference between being enrolled in Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage only
  • 20% of those enrolled in Medicare Advantage report not knowing the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
  • 59% across plan type do not understand or do not know the differences between Advantage and Medigap plans

In Original Medicare, the government pays for your health care benefits.  In a Medicare Advantage plan, your health care benefits are paid through a private insurance company that has been approved by Medicare.  Medicare Advantage plans come in many plan types, but the two common types are HMOs and PPOs. And, they work just like private insurance HMOs and PPOs. There is a network of doctors that accept the plan, and your costs are lower if you go to an in-network doctor. In Original Medicare, you can see any providers that accept Medicare.

Medicare Advantage plans combine your Part A (hospital benefit), Part B (health insurance benefit) and sometimes Part D (prescription drug benefit) all in one convenient plan.  In addition to those benefits, Advantage Plans often offer coverage that goes beyond Original Medicare, such as:

  • Routine eye exams, prescription eyewear, and/or contact lenses
  • Hearing exams; some may include an annual benefit toward hearing aids
  • Routine dental exams and non-surgical restorations
  • Wellness and fitness programs (some even include discounted gym memberships)

The cost of a Medicare Advantage plan will vary based on the plan you choose, the insurance company that is offering the plan, and where you live.  You may pay your monthly Part B premium plus a possible additional premium charged by the Medicare Advantage plan.  Keep in mind that premiums, co-payments, and benefits can change from year to year, and vary greatly from plan to plan, and company to company.  Read the fine print carefully, especially concerning prescription drug coverage. One benefit to Medicare Advantage is that some plans offer an out-of-pocket maximum, capping the medical expenses that you pay out-of-pocket during the year.  Original Medicare does not have an out-of-pocket maximum.

If you choose to go with a Medicare Advantage plan, you need to understand that this plan replaces Original Medicare, it does not supplement it.  You can also not use Medigap plans (supplemental Medicare) with a Medicare Advantage plan. That said, having a Medicare Advantage means you are in the Medicare Program and under the same protections that all Medicare recipients receive.  Your plan will last an entire year, at which point you can change plans or revert back to Original Medicare.

For more information about Medicare Advantage Plans, visit:

Sexuality Concerns and Cancer

Sexuality and intimacy are important aspects of health for all people, including thoseSexuality Concerns diagnosed with cancer. For those patients currently in treatment or just recovering from surgery, there are some important considerations to be aware of before you engage in any sexual activity.

For Women:

  • When recovering from surgery, sex can cause bleeding or stress any incisions. Recovery times are different for each surgery, so check with your health care team about when is a safe time to resume sexual activity.
  • Cancer treatment often causes a weakened immune system. This makes it easier to catch all kinds of infections. Check with your health care team about the potential threat the sex poses to your immune system and ways to protect yourself.
  • Chemotherapy may thin the walls of the vagina, which can cause a small amount of bleeding. Using an unscented, uncolored, water-based lubricant can help.
  • Surgery and radiation to the vagina can cause vaginal dryness, which can cause pain and bleeding. Again, unscented, uncolored, water-based lubricant and using dilators can help.
  • Some chemotherapy can be present in some amounts of vaginal fluid. Protect your partner by using a condom throughout treatment and up to two weeks after treatment.

For Men:

  • Cancer treatment often causes a weakened immune system. This makes it easier to catch all kinds of infections. Check with your health care team about the potential threat the sex poses to your immune system and ways to protect yourself.
  • Radiation to the genital area can cause pain during ejaculation. This is not usually permanent.
  • Radiation can also cause skin irritation and a reduction in the amount of semen present in ejaculate.
  • For men being treated for prostate cancer, there may be small amount of blood in semen. This is not harmful, but notify your doctor.
  • Men treated for testicular cancer may have no semen at orgasm (dry ejaculation). This will not affect your pleasure or your partner’s.
  • Men who have been treated for testicular, prostate, bladder, colorectal, and even head and neck cancers often report having trouble getting erections after treatment. Speak to your health care team about hormone replacement (though men with some cancers can’t get have testosterone replacement).

The greatest thing you can do for you and your partner is to keep an open line of communication. Talk to your partner about how you are physically feeling, and about your emotional concerns.  Don’t push yourself.

For more information about sexuality during cancer check out: 

  1. Triage Cancer Webinar: You and Your Body: Cancer, Intimacy and Sexuality
  2. American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects/how-cancer-affects-sexuality.html