Coping with prostate cancer and its treatment can be difficult for couples. Concerns about physical health are often combined with emotions – depression, anxiety, fear, and anger among them.
In the midst of the whirlwind, many couples put their relationships on the back burner. But this, more than ever, is the time to nurture their partnerships to keep them strong.
Couples may wonder how cancer and its treatment will affect their sex lives. Men usually have trouble with erections after treatment, and it can take some time and rehabilitation for those to improve. Fatigue and low desire are common, too. Some men feel anxious and less masculine if they can’t sexually perform the way they used to.
The situation also affects partners, who may want to maintain a physical connection, but are reluctant to bring up the subject. Both partners may miss the intimacy they shared.
However, there is no reason for intimacy to end. Here are some things to think about:
- Education is key. Both men and their partners should know about the sexual side effects of treatment. They should also be aware of potential solutions. For example, couples can prepare themselves for erectile dysfunction and discuss treatments like pills, vacuum devices, injections, suppositories.
- Communication is essential. Discussing the challenges ahead and making a plan can help both partners move forward. Opening up about the emotional aspects of cancer is important, too. It’s normal to have fears and anxieties, and sharing them can bring about support and encouragement.
- Adjustments are to be expected. Couples may need to experiment with new sexual activities or revisit some old routines. For example, having sex at a different time of day might be helpful if fatigue is an issue. Or, if penetration isn’t possible, couples might enjoy kissing, cuddling, or massaging.
- Intimacy is still possible. No matter what happens in the bedroom, it is still possible to maintain intimacy in non-sexual ways. Sharing a laugh or smile, holding hands, enjoying a candlelight dinner together - or whatever a couple enjoys – can help keep their connection strong and positive.
Making relationships a priority during cancer and its treatment can go a long way in preserving a satisfying sex life. However, cancer can be overwhelming, and it doesn’t hurt to talk to a doctor, counselor, or sex therapist if couples need more help. Sometimes the perspective of a third party introduces ideas neither partner has considered before. With guidance, couples facing cancer can move ahead in a way that is satisfying for both members.
Coping With Cancer
Wittmann, Daniela, LMSW
“Recovering Sexual Intimacy after Prostate Cancer”
Pagán, Camille Noe
“Advanced Prostate Cancer and Your Relationship”
(Reviewed: December 10, 2016)