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Sex After Prostate Cancer – How Couples Can Cope – Part 2

Posted Mar 22 2010 12:00am
This is part two of a three-part article about how prostate cancer and its treatment affects women and couples.

Erectile Dysfunction Frustrates Both Partners During Sex After Prostate Cancer

After my robotic surgery to remove my cancerous prostate in April, 2007, I was fortunate that the nerve bundles adjacent to the prostate were spared. This allowed for the possibility of renewed functioning during sex after prostate cancer treatment and renewed continence reinforced by the sphincter muscles. The likelihood of erectile dysfunction is lowered if doctors avoid cutting these nerves. However, age also plays a role. Men under 50 have a good chance of having their function fully restored, but for men above 70, there’s a greater chance it may not return to 100 percent.

Even so, erectile dysfunction—defined as the incapacity to have a spontaneous erection sufficient for penetration—is one of several adverse treatment after-effects for most surgery patients and those undergoing radiation. I was no exception. In my case, my erectile dysfunction was complicated by diabetes, neuropathy, and certain medications which “put a lid on my damper.” Yet like most men, I successfully offset my erectile dysfunction with medications like Viagra or by using a vacuum erection device.

Others are able to have sex after prostate cancer by taking Cialis (tadalafil) or Levitra (vardenafil) pills to become firm, or used non-oral medications, such as Caverject (alprostadil) or MUSE pellets (both are drugs that widen blood vessels in the penis, allowing for a stronger erection). However, like other medications, they do cause side effects. Penile implant surgery has also been an option for many men.

Whether or not erectile dysfunction can be offset by such means, it can become a permanently frustrating reality not only for men, but their wives and partners. Using the approaches I’ve mentioned can help, but can also take the spontaneity out of intercourse. This, too, is a source of frustration for both men and women, but spontaneity can be preserved when practicing “whole body sex,” with an emphasis on the entire body.

All in all, more extensive foreplay is one major way to reduce the frustration of erectile dysfunction when having sex after prostate cancer.

For more information, see Part 1 and Part 3 of this artice.

Excerpted from A Couple's Cancer, published in Cure magazine, Spring, 2010.

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