Safeguarding sexual relations after prostate cancer

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Safeguarding sexual relations after prostate cancer

Whether a man has undergone surgery, hormonal therapy, or radiation therapy for prostate cancer, each of those treatments can have sexual side effects.  A diagnosis of prostate cancer is unique from other cancers for any man.  It directly affects one of the most enjoyable expressions of intimacy men thrive upon.  Thoughts of “how will this affect my sex life,” is a very common concern men will face after hearing a diagnosis of prostate cancer and is one not to be ashamed of or embarrassed by.  It is a normal response and all men should safeguard this important part of his life and how side effects might possibly disrupt his ability to perform in bed.

It all begins with what treatment choice a man and his doctor chose to beat back his cancer.  This decision can be a challenge as no matter what he chooses, most likely there will be physical, emotional and sexual side effects to face.  A thorough discussion and research on treatment options with his doctor is vital when deciding which treatment option is best for him.

Once a man has chosen what treatment option to do, he should not be intimidated to bring up how the treatment may affect sexual functioning.  Whether a man has surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy, all can cause some sexual side effects.  Possible side effects from prostate cancer treatment can range from a reduction in desire for sex or low libido, erectile dysfunction, and dry orgasms or a reduction in the amount of fluid a man normally ejaculates.

Men are not the only ones affected by side effects prostate cancer can bring.  Their wives and girlfriends are also impacted by how a diagnosis of prostate cancer can turn a vibrant love life into nights of frustration and disappointment. 

It is important for couples to remember that sexual side effects from prostate cancer treatment are often temporary, especially if the doctor used nerve-sparing surgery.  A man’s body will need time to heal after surgery before automatically believing his sexual function is gone.  It can take up to a year or more for the nerves and blood vessels to heal completely.

To help preserve intimacy and sex after prostate cancer, here are some steps to consider if sexual side effects are getting in the way of good sex:

·      Be open with the healthcare team about sexual side effects

The healthcare team is there to support and address any issues including sexual issues a man may be experiencing after prostate cancer treatment.  They can answer questions on what to expect and can help a man to come up with a plan addressing his concerns.  It may be necessary for some couples to seek help from someone who specializes in sexual function such as a urologist or sex therapist.

·      Couples need to be open and honest with each other

Communication with a partner is key. If sexual problems are occurring, not talking about them is like sticking your head in the sand pretending nothing is wrong. When sexual issues are not brought up, the easier it is to avoid ever talking about them.  If sex isn’t discussed, the subject becomes increasingly awkward often resulting in resentment, fear of failure, frustration and anger.  These feelings can intensify when the issues around sexuality are not brought out into the light of day.

When each partner is open and honest with their feelings, concerns and needs, this is when real progress can be made by creating an environment of willingness to work together addressing what is best for each as a couple. 

Couples need to take their time and to remember to have a sense of humor by not taking things too seriously.  Make time for sharing feelings, love, showing intimacy in other ways. 

·      Seek support from other survivors

If a man is willing to open up to other survivors, it can help immensely to talk with other men who are going through the same thing.  If possible, join a local prostate cancer support group to gain knowledge and support.  Online forums and discussion groups are another means of gaining information and advice on how other men dealt with the same sexual problems. 

·      Give it time

Any type of trauma to this region of a man’s body will require sufficient time to heal and regenerate.  So take the time as a couple to enjoy intimacy in other ways until a full recovery is reached.  If the amount of time for being able to have most if not all sexual functioning is taking longer than you think it should, address it with your doctor.  They can give you a better perspective on long is too long for sexual functioning to return.