Multiple myeloma can cause changes in a person’s sex life. The changes may relate to physical or emotional effects.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells located in the bone marrow. It is relatively uncommon. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 35,730 new cases in the United States in 2023.

For some people, multiple myeloma does not cause any complications. Others may develop one or more complications, such as an increased rate of infections, or other effects on their life, such as changes to their sex life.

This article reviews how multiple myeloma can affect a person’s sex life, tips on boosting sex life, and more.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Multiple myeloma may affect a person’s sex life for various reasons. Some people may feel a stronger need to connect with another person, while others may find it difficult or potentially uncomfortable to have sex.

Living with multiple myeloma can lead to fatigue for many reasons. Anemia, a side effect of treatment, or poor nutrition can cause fatigue. Fatigue can make it difficult for a person to find the energy to desire or have sex.

Treatments associated with multiple myeloma as well as complications can lead to sexual dysfunction in males and females.

In males, certain medications may cause erectile dysfunction. These medications include:

  • steroids
  • cyclophosphamide
  • melphalan

Steroid use may also reduce sexual desire. Complications associated with multiple myeloma, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or changes in body appearance, can also reduce sexual desire.

In females, medications, changes in body image, or changes in personal relationships may lead to sexual dysfunction. Symptoms may include:

  • painful intercourse
  • loss of arousal
  • trouble achieving orgasm
  • loss of desire

Living with multiple myeloma may also cause emotional changes affecting sexual desire. These changes can include:

  • feeling disconnected from a partner
  • negative self-image
  • depression or anxiety
  • increased stress

Several strategies may help a person manage their sex life. People may find one or more of the following strategies helpful in boosting sex life following a multiple myeloma diagnosis.

Manage stress and anxiety

A person can try several techniques to help manage stress, anxiety, or depression associated with multiple myeloma.

An individual experiencing emotional changes may want to ask the healthcare professional treating their cancer about options such as:

A person may need to try a few strategies to cope with stress and anxiety.

Cope with fatigue

Fatigue goes beyond being tired. It can make it incredibly difficult to engage in normal activities throughout the day.

Treatments for fatigue often include:

  • regular exercise, such as yoga or exercises that a therapist may teach a person
  • nutritional counseling
  • massage therapy
  • counseling

A person can also take steps to manage fatigue on their own, such as:

  • getting 7–8 hours of sleep each night
  • avoiding exercise before trying to sleep
  • drinking less caffeine
  • prioritizing each day’s activities and completing what needs to be done first
  • taking short naps or breaks of about 30 minutes
  • asking for help from family or friends
  • discussing medication changes with a doctor

Manage physical changes

Cancer treatment can lead to physical changes in the body.

For males, this may include erectile dysfunction. Females may feel more pain during intercourse due to vaginal dryness. A doctor can help provide care to help these situations. They may also switch medications to see whether it helps.

It is important to remember that loving, playful intimacy does not have to include penetrative intercourse. There are many other ways to express affection and enjoy sexual arousal.

Changes to the body can also include weight gain or hair loss. These changes may lead to issues with self-image. A person may find that discussing these changes with a mental health professional helps.

A person may also find support groups helpful to increase their self-image and self-esteem.

Cancer resources

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for cancer, visit our dedicated hub.

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Communication with a partner is key. Openly discussing feelings, changes, and how the cancer affects the person can help maintain and deepen the relationship. It may also help when it comes to sex.

Communication is important for both the person with multiple myeloma and their partner.

Evidence suggests that partners experience many of the same emotions and stresses associated with cancer that their partner does. This may strain the relationship if the partners do not communicate and get the support they need.

Couples counseling may help. A mental health professional can help a couple navigate the diagnosis and both the emotional and physical changes a person is going through.

Some ways to stay intimate with a partner include:

  • hugging
  • kissing
  • massages
  • holding hands
  • taking baths or showers together

Couples may also find they can improve and maintain their connection by doing activities they both enjoy or setting aside time to have a romantic dinner.

If multiple myeloma causes negative changes to a person’s sex life, they may want to discuss the issues with a doctor. A doctor can help a person find solutions for common symptoms, such as:

  • body image issues
  • stress, anxiety, or depression
  • side effects of medications
  • fatigue

The following section provides answers to some frequently asked questions about multiple myeloma.

Are there sex differences in outcomes in multiple myeloma?

According to a 2021 study, females have a higher chance of developing tumors in locations that decrease life expectancy compared with males.

However, treatment techniques may be enough to overcome the discrepancy in tumor severity.

What should I avoid with multiple myeloma?

In general, a person can continue activities as they normally would.

Eating a diet that focuses on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein may help a person manage their condition.

A person may want to discuss with a doctor what activities they should avoid based on their unique situation.

Multiple myeloma can negatively affect a person’s sex life due to physical and emotional changes.

Fatigue and changes to the body may affect a person’s desire to have sex. It may also cause issues of sexual dysfunction, making it painful or impossible.

Various therapies, exercises, and diet strategies may help. Open communication with one’s partner gives the opportunity to express affection and explore comfortable ways of being intimate. A person may find discussing changes in their sex life with their doctor helpful as well.