Anal Sex After Treatment for Anal Cancer

Last Modified: January 6, 2008

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I received chemotherapy and radiation for anal cancer in 2006. As a gay man, is it safe to resume anal intercourse?

Answer

Najjia N. Mahmoud, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, responds:

I don't see any reason why someone would not be able to engage in anal receptive intercourse with the following stipulations:

  1. Because the cause of anal cancers is thought to be related to certain strains of human papilloma virus, intercourse has to be protected – which means a condom must be worn.
  2. Radiation can cause the skin around the anus and the anal canal to be friable and irritated. Small breaks in the skin caused by the trauma of intercourse may not heal as well, may bleed easily, and/or may be more prone to infection, even after the acute radiation damage heals. If you develop any pain or symptoms of infection, be sure to see your doctor.