It’s November, or as Mr. A has known it for the last 9 years, it’s Movember! Every Movember Mr. A dedicates his face to this amazing men’s health charity.
Thanks to our guest blogger Samantha Evans (Sexual health expert and co-founder of Jo Divine) who has written us this great post about one of the key focuses Movember has and that’s Prostate Cancer.
In the UK, around 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives, with the average age being 66. One of the most common side effects of having treatment for prostate cancer is the impact upon the sex lives of both partners. However, there are many ways in which you can still enjoy a great sex after prostate cancer.
A study by Dr Mikkel Fode from the Herlev Hospital in Copenhagen (2015) found that of the 210 men involved in his survey, 93% of the men said they experienced sexual problems postoperatively, highlighting the problem of erectile dysfunction after surgery, which often leaves many men with a less than satisfactory erection.
Being informed about the potential sexual impact prior to commencing treatment or undergoing surgery gives men and their partners a realistic view of the problems that may occur, and how these can be overcome. Some men experience fewer side effects than others, but with the average age of patients undergoing a radical prostatectomy decreasing, the ability to achieve an erection after surgery is important.
One of the main factors in a man having a good sexual outcome after treatment is a partner who also wants their sex life to get better. It has been found that supportive partners had a positive effect upon sexual intimacy.
Often the sexual expectations of men and their partners can be high as they believe there will be immediate and complete success following ED treatment. Many treatments for erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer improve erectile firmness, yet most couples stop using aids such as penis pumps, medication and cock rings within 1–2 years.
When the treatment is ineffective, couples often give up on their sex lives, rather than exploring other ways in which to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure that don’t focus on erectile function, especially if alternative ways to enjoy sex have not been discussed with them.
Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre (2011) found that both internet-based sexual counseling and traditional sex therapy were equally effective in improving sexual function and satisfaction. Couples waiting for counseling did not improve.
Putting Sex back on the Menu
By making couples aware of the changes that may happen to male sexual function after prostate cancer, they can be prepared. Changing the way in which you view your sex life and sexual activity and exploring new ways in which you enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure can enable a couple to come through the postoperative period feeling sexually connected.
Talk to each other
For people who have cancer, “renegotiating sex”: involves being adventurous and exploring all avenues of sexual pleasure, whatever sexual orientation you are. Being honest with your partner when sexual problems occur can help you explore and discuss alternative ways to enjoy sexual pleasure.
Sex isn’t just about penetration
Getting and maintaining an erection for many men is important but if this doesn’t happen, there are many ways to enjoy “sexual pleasure without penetration”: through mutual masturbation, using sex toys and bondage, massage, oral sex and watching/reading erotica.
A study by Ussher et al (2013) explored renegotiation of sex in people with cancer and their partners, and found that 70% of the participants reported that exploring non-coital sexual practices such as masturbation, mutual genital touching or oral sex was considered to be just as satisfying as coital sex and created a deeper level of intimacy too.
Using sex toys
Incorporating sex toys into your sex play can allow couples to continue to enjoy sexual pleasure and intimacy even when penetrative sex isn’t possible. A combination of medical treatment and sex toys can be more beneficial to sexual function (Walker 2015).
Sex toys such as the “Pulse II Duo”: offer a completely different type of sexual stimulation which can be enjoyed by both the man and his partner when penetration isn’t possible or during foreplay.
Lubricant is your friend
After surgery or cancer treatment, many couples have a period of abstinence to allow recovery so when they do resume sexual intercourse, many women who may have menopausal or postmenopausal symptoms. Vaginal dryness or low libido can cause painful sex, but regular sexual activity can help prevent or slow the normal vaginal changes that occur during or after the menopause.
Incorporating sexual lubricants into foreplay, during sexual intercourse and when playing with sex toys can make sex feel more comfortable, enhancing sexual pleasure for you both.
Many men take PDE51s (viagra) but this may not work or produce satisfactory erections if you experience low libido as you need to be aroused for it to work. Using vacuum pumps and penile implants can help create a partial or even full erection even if libido is low. The psychological effect of seeing your erection get bigger can help you overcome erectile issues too. You don’t need a fully erect penis to enjoy penetrative sex and using a penis ring and vacuum pump can help you feel firmer and last longer. Some penis pumps act as penis exercises by encouraging the blood flow to the tissues of the penis and can improve erectile function too.
Involving both partners in the discussion
To ensure that couples fully understand the implications of prostate cancer and treatment on their sexual relationship, partners need to be included in the discussion right from the start prior to treatment, are provided with all the information they need to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure and the opportunity to ask any questions they may have.
Being made aware that there are ways in which you overcome some of these problems, if or when they arise, can help couples to deal with any problems, as well as involving them in the treatment process. It also speeds up the rate of recovery for the man, allowing a couple to return to enjoying sexual pleasure and intimacy, in whatever way they can or want to.
Written by: Samantha Evans
Sexual health expert and co-founder of Jo Divine
Thanks again to Samantha for this informative post. If you’re interested in donating to Movember, please feel free to donate to Mr. A, who this year is taking challenges in return for donations – Donate here