How long after receiving chemotherapy should patients wait to have unprotected sex?
This is a frequent question for many oncology or infusion center nurses. Many factors influence when a patient may have unprotected sex during or after their chemotherapy treatment. One important consideration is how long the chemotherapy drug takes to be metabolized and cleared from the body (ie, the pharmacologic half-life). Avoiding unprotected sex until after the drug is expected to be cleared reduces exposing the sexual partner to any chemotherapy that may have penetrated into the patient’s vaginal secretions or semen.
Patients receiving therapy that is expected to make them profoundly neutropenic or thrombocytopenic may need to avoid sexual activity until their cytopenia resolves. Female patients who are able to become pregnant and male patients with a female sexual partner who is able to become pregnant should use appropriate contraception methods until after discussion with the patient’s oncology care provider, even if barrier methods are no longer necessary. This is because the chemotherapy’s effects on sperm or egg cells may be longer lasting, depending on what treatment the patient received.