Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer Survivors

Sexually transmitted diseases

As with all teens and young adults, cancer survivors should be counseled about safe sexual practices. Despite the prevalence of sexual messages in our culture, most teens are woefully under-informed about the facts. Many survivors think, erroneously, that if they are infertile, they do not have to use condoms. However, all sorts of diseases, some potentially fatal (e.g., hepatitis C, AIDS) and some life-altering (e.g., genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea), can be transmitted through sexual activity. Sexually transmitted diseases can also reduce fertility.

No one in the follow-up clinic has ever mentioned sexually transmitted diseases. I just can’t imagine my strait-laced doctor talking about it.

One nurse practitioner at a large follow-up clinic said:

I tell every teenager who comes through the door, regardless of his or her medical background, that I think he or she is too young to have sex and I explain why. But then I say, in the event that you do choose to become sexually active, you always need to use a condom, and not just any condom. I tell them to use a latex condom with a spermicide, because it is the most barrier-protective. I explain that no sex is the only guarantee to avoid the many diseases out there, but a latex condom with spermicide offers the next best protection. And I really stress that this should be done whoever the partner is, and for whatever type of sex. So many teenagers think that diseases only happen to other types of kids.