Optimizing the quality of one’s sex life after prostate cancer therapy

There’s an interesting article on the Medscape web site this month on the subject of sexual health after prostate cancer.

This relatively short article (by Kate O’Rourke) gets into the details about what men and their partners really need to be doing if they want to optimize the quality of their sex lives after a man has been treated for prostate cancer. In particular, it focuses on the fact that something like 75 percent of patients have unresolved sexual problems 5 years after diagnosis and that there are a lot of things that can be done to help with this … if the patient and/or his partner are willing and able to talk about the issue.

The ability to discuss the problem may, however, be one of the critical defining issues. The quality of a couple’s sex life is rarely defined just by the ability of the man to have a decent erection. Does that help? Sure it does! Is it the only component of importance? Absolutely not!

The quality of any couple’s sex life is dependent on a wide range of factors that can vary greatly from couple to couple (for male-female couples as well as for male-male couples). If one of the partners is spending all his energy focused on the quality of his erectile function, this may actually become a “turn off” for the other partner, who may be more focused on other aspects of intimacy. If things like that don’t get discussed, then there may well be a problem because the couple is at cross-purposes.

To quote Daniella Whittman, PhD, a therapist at the University of Michigan who works with prostate cancer patients and their partners:

If you think of sexuality as having biological, psychological, and relationship components, in usual care, the only treatment that men typically get is for the physiologic function. There are many psychological and relationship strengths that people can employ to get back or retain their sex lives.

This is by no means a new idea. The problem is that far too few patients know how to get the types of help that they need — and they are rarely encouraged to do so. As Dr. Whittman also suggests, nurses, primary care physicians, urologists, radiation oncologists, and medial oncologists should all be bringing up sexuality, discussing it with prostate cancer survivors, and pointing them in directions where they can seek help, including references to local, certified sex therapists. Just getting some little blue pills or a vacuum pump may only be addressing one small part of the problem.

2 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on littledeer74 and commented:

    Wish I had had access to all of this information 10 years ago. Particularly, about using a vacuum device as a recovery technique. Had I started that earlier, maybe I wouldn’t have needed an implant. However, it works well.
    Communication essential, invaluable. Honesty necessary.

  2. I have attempted to address this issue with my paper “Intimacy challenged by surgery, radiation, cryotherapy, or ADT.”

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