Many women at this stage of life, as well as facing some changes of their own, are dealing with the very tough challenges that come when a husband has prostate cancer. Maybe you’re one of them or know someone who is. Although prostate cancer is very treatable today, it’s still terribly scary.
And if that weren’t difficult enough, along with it may come some major issues regarding a man’s sexual performance, adding even more stress and worry to the situation. Some possible side effects of surgery and/or other prostate treatments include challenges to:
- The ability to get an erection (erectile dysfunction)
- The desire to have sex
- The ability to ejaculate and have an orgasm
This affects men not only physically, but emotionally, too, since men’s feelings of masculinity are often tied to their sexual performance.
And as you probably know, men are not always good at talking about sensitive subjects like this. So they often don’t delve too deeply into these side effects, even with their doctors. Or they may be so distraught about the cancer itself, that it just doesn’t seem important at the time.
But it is important. And that’s where you can help. Communicating about it is the first step to dealing with prostate cancer and its impact on your lives. In fact, prostate cancer is often called the “couples disease” because of its broad-reaching effects in the bedroom—and elsewhere.
So while these side effects may be extremely difficult for your partner to deal with, they obviously affect you, too, especially if you have had an active and satisfying sex life. It can be a devastating loss to you both.
That’s why it’s critical to discuss it. Once you’ve begun living with this type of cancer, you need to acknowledge its impact on your relationship. The good news is, there are lots of ways to maintain sexual intimacy after prostate cancer. So instead of looking at it as the end of your sex life, look at it as a new beginning. (I’ll talk about some solutions in our next post.)
It might also be a good idea to find and join a support group so you can talk with other couples about how they are dealing with this issue. I’m a big believer in sharing ideas, which I always encourage readers to do!
If you’ve had experience with prostate cancer (or similar issues) and have advice to offer others—or if you just want to share your thoughts—please add your comment.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.
The diagnosis of any cancer is difficult for a person and couple to integrate into their relationship. A cancer that can profoundly affect intimacy comes as a double punch. Your encouragement and solutions are very helpful for those struggling with a difficult issue. As with many things, changing how you think about an issue can significantly change how you treat and react to a new reality within the relationship. Thank you for this great article on a difficult topic.