Will Prostate Cancer Affect My Sex Life?
But many men delay getting themselves checked because of their biggest fear – that they’ll end up impotent because the treatment has destroyed their ability to get an erection.
Dr Rosie King is an Australian specialist in sexual medicine who gives advice to men about future sexual function as part of her daily work.
Two Years Recovery
She says one of several reasons men put off getting checked is fear of having a rectal examination, without realising prostate cancer can also be checked by having a blood test.
She says it is very important for men to understand what to expect if diagnosed with prostate cancer – and that the outcomes can be very different depending on how soon the cancer is found and the type of treatment recommended.
Whether you enjoy a normal sex life again depends on many variables, and also involves allowing for a time of healing – generally 18 months to two years post treatment, she says.
Naturally the first consideration is to ensure survival, she says.
“Once that initial threat to survival is over, you start to think about quality of life issues and what effect will it have on my sexual function.”
Top Five Tips When Dealing With Prostate Cancer
- If you’ve a family history of prostate cancer, get yourself checked early. “We know it runs in families so we need men in their 40s to get checked if they have a family history,” says Dr Rosie. The less severe the surgery, the better the chance of a full sex life returning.
- Even if you have a radical prostatectomy which removes the ability to make and carry sperm and seminal fluid, you will not be able to ejaculate but will still be able to achieve “dry orgasm” which some men report is just as good.
- The ability to resume a normal sex life depends on how much nerve damage occurs during surgery. If the nerve bundles around the prostate can be spared, you’ve a much better chance of restoring erectile function. It takes the nerve about 18 months to truly recover from surgery, and even two to three years later you may still get improvement.
- Radiotherapy and hormone therapy affects sexual function more gradually than surgery, because they either reduce testosterone (which also affects libido) or reduce the blood supply to the penis, leading to gradual loss of sexual function over six months.
- Doing pelvic floor exercises before and after surgery can greatly improve quick recovery and reduce problems like incontinence which can be a temporary issue after surgery.
Says Dr Rosie: Prostate cancer is a potentially curable cancer like bowel cancer. The sooner you get it checked out and dealt to greater chance you will have a successful outcome. If it is not an aggressive cancer then “watchful waiting or active surveillance” may be a real option.
Tell Us About Your Experience
Have you or your partner faced dealing with prostate cancer, and how did it affect your relationship? If you’ve got experiences to share that would help others in that situation, please tell us about them.