Prostate Cancer

Sexual side effects & the caregiver

Once treatment ends, many men look forward to returning to their normal life. But treatments that fight prostate cancer can often affect the patient’s sexual health. In fact, many men suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) (also known as impotence) after being treated with a radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy for early-stage, localized prostate cancer.

Even if they were prepared for this side effect, ED can be an embarrassing and scary issue for a man. As a caregiver, it’s important to know that this condition can get better and to learn what to do in the meantime.

Regaining erectile function is possible, but it typically takes 18 to 36 months for full recovery after surgery. After radiation, erections are not affected immediately, but may begin to fail over time, worsening year by year. The patient’s age and erectile function prior to treatment are also factors in recovery of function, and a higher percentage of men age 60 and under will recover or retain erections more readily than older men.

Dealing with impotence can be frustrating because although they have lost the ability to have sex, they haven’t lost their libido or desire to please their partners. This can cause anger, sadness and disappointment in both partners, so work together to deal with your emotions.

Not all men will regain erectile function, so it’s important to remember that intercourse is only one aspect of a satisfying sex life with your partner. Your sexual feelings can still be very much intact, and it’s still possible to experience a satisfying sex life. Do research on the subject and talk to caregivers who have experienced this before you for advice on the subject.

Open communication

Although impotence is a physical problem, dealing with the emotions behind ED can actually help to alleviate symptoms. Talking about your feelings on the subject, no matter how awkward, helps everyone feel closer and achieve intimacy without having intercourse. It’s not easy to imagine what your partner is going through, so discussions on the subject should be had if he’s willing. When ED becomes a problem, the patient can be embarrassed or reluctant to talk about it with his partner. This is normal, and is usually because he feels ashamed and guilty that he can’t satisfy your needs.

You know better than anyone else how to make your partner comfortable, and if he isn’t willing to talk, perhaps he will listen to your concerns or feelings. Reassure him that your needs can be met in other ways, and be ready to give examples. This can open up the lines of communication and get you both on the road to other possibilities.

If you’ve attempted to talk to him about the problem and he doesn’t open up, talk to a doctor or another caregiver about suggestions they have. Many recommend counseling sessions alone or as a couple to work through this issue productively and professionally.

For more information about caregiving, click here.

 

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