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When Prostate Cancer Treatments Lead to Sexual Dysfunction and Loss of Intimacy - You Be the Doctor!

Posted Jul 05 2010 12:00am

Prostate cancer treatments often lead to ED. When this occurs a number of patients become severely depressed and refuse to remain physically and emotionally intimate with their partners. I invite our viewers to respond to such a dilemma posed by one patient’s wife in her recent letter to me, below.

When prostate cancer treatment has wreaked havoc in a couple's lives, what would you say to both the patient and his spouse? I suggest you write your response in the form of an email note to this wife and husband to help them reconnect. 


I will post your suggestion on this blog during the next week, so please offer your solution now in the comment section below the questioner's letter. This interactive approach will give you a chance to weigh in on these serious concerns, based on your own experiences and readings.

Next week I will post my reply, which I’ve already emailed to the couple in question, enabling you to compare your thoughts to mine. The result may be that you’ll gain some perspective on similar concerns of your own. Again, use the comment section here to write your suggestion to this woman, who clearly is suffering a major personal loss as is her husband.


 Dear Rabbi Ed,

After his prostate cancer diagnosis my husband had extensive radiotherapy treatment. He had 73 radioactive seeds implanted in the first month and 35 subsequent external beam treatments. The radiation center advertises that they spare the sex nerves because they don’t use surgery; they don’t bother to advertise that the nerves are probably destroyed anyway with radiation.

They did tell my husband, who is only 58,  that he must stay sexually active to keep blood flowing to pelvic tissues and vessels. He won’t do it. He’s not interested in sex and has cut me out of his life. The past two months have been the most desolate and despairing of my life. Rejection is a painful thing.

I bought him a vacuum erection device (a VED); but he won’t use that either. I think he believes that he will suffer no side by avoiding penile rehabilitation. I am terrified that the opposite is true. I have read that the blood vessels that support sexual health also are important for urinary and bowel health. Even if he isn’t interested in sex, he should be interested in his vascular health.

I fear, too, that eventually he’ll change his mind about refusing a VED, but then it might be too late. I mention this since the side effects of radiation are permanent and irreversible if you wait too long to do something about them.

I'm not sure who's more distressed - him or me? What can either he or I do now?

       -- D.H. (in Georgia)



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