Talking About Mesothelioma and Sex with Your Partner

Health & Wellness
Reading Time: 4 mins
Publication Date: 11/04/2014
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family.
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite’s Article


Nolan, D. (2022, December 16). Talking About Mesothelioma and Sex with Your Partner. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from


Nolan, Dana. "Talking About Mesothelioma and Sex with Your Partner.", 16 Dec 2022,


Nolan, Dana. "Talking About Mesothelioma and Sex with Your Partner." Last modified December 16, 2022.

Human sexual feelings and behaviors are complex and strongly influenced by emotional and physical factors.

A mesothelioma diagnosis can affect a person’s body image, sexual functioning, relationships, identity and self-esteem. Various treatment options can potentially affect libido and sexual function to a certain extent.

A good place to start understanding how the asbestos-related disease and its treatments affect your sex life is asking your doctor.

When patients and their partners are knowledgeable about how mesothelioma and its treatments can influence their intimacy and sex life, they may be able to talk to each other and manage those challenges.

In addition to treatments, side effects caused by the illness or therapies, such as fatigue and stress, may impact a patient and caregiver’s capacity to enjoy sex.


Over the last several decades, research in the field of sexology (the study of sexuality and sexual function) has demonstrated that stress can negatively affect one’s desire and ability to have sex.

Living with a mesothelioma diagnosis is stressful for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Uncertainty of the future
  • Financial strain
  • Medical bills
  • Fear of pain or death
  • Worrying about loved ones

When our bodies are chronically stressed, they produce too much cortisol, a stress hormone known to suppress sex drive and, at times, our normal ability to engage in sex. The condition can manifest as erectile dysfunction in men and painful intercourse in women.


People with mesothelioma often report feeling tired.

Surgery and chemotherapy cause fatigue and tiredness for many reasons. Our body heals most effectively while we sleep and rest. We feel fatigue so we are forced to take it easy and allow our body to heal.

Recovering from mesothelioma treatment occurs at a cellular level and our body prioritizes cell repair over giving us energy to perform other normal activities like household chores, exercise or sex.

Feeling too tired for sex can be frustrating for couples and can lead to animosity if the couple doesn’t understand the physiological reasons behind such fatigue.


Surgical procedures to remove the cancer or fluid buildup can be a vital treatment option for mesothelioma patients that can improve the length and quality of life. However, patients may experience pain post-operatively during their healing period. Research shows that uncontrolled pain leads to high blood pressure and is generally stressful on the body.

Understandably, most people aren’t in the mood for sex when they are in pain. When patients are willing to engage in sex after surgery, their partners often may refuse for fear of causing them harm.


Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning it affects the entire body.

Common side effects include fatigue, nausea, gastrointestinal (GI) distress, hormonal changes, mucus membrane irritation and hair loss.

When most people feel nauseous or develop GI stress, it is understandable they don’t feel like engaging in sex. Chemotherapy-induced hormonal fluctuations in both men and women affect energy levels, temperature regulation, mood and libido.

Some patients have significant weight loss or gain or lose their hair as a result of chemotherapy. Many people believe that their physical attributes, like hair and body shape, are part of what makes them sexually attractive to their partner. Looking in the mirror and feeling unattractive can have a negative impact on one’s intimacy and libido.

For many couples, sex is something they do, but don’t really talk about.

When couples understand how mesothelioma and its treatments can affect libido and sexual function, they are better able to discuss their thoughts and feelings about their sex life and how to improve their intimacy as a couple.

This report is the second installment of an occasional series on about mesothelioma and sexual intimacy.

paper with magnifying glass
Free Mesothelioma Resources
Get Access to Free Resources for Patients & Loved Ones