Prostate cancer can have a devastating effect not just on men’s health but also on their sex lives. People often forget the importance of sexual function in the lives of cancer survivors, male and female and the severe impact this can have on quality of life, self esteem and intimacy.
This week is Men’s Health Week so we asked Hilary Belcher of Pleasure Solutions to talk to us about some of the sexual consequences of prostate cancer and treatment.
“We believe everyone living beyond cancer has the right to return to a quality of sex life they’re satisfied with.”
To achieve an erection, a man needs to have healthy nerves to transmit pleasure messages, veins that can transport the blood that fills the penis to make it hard, vital tissues in the penile muscles that keep the erectile response and the desire to have sex which is a process involving both the brain and penis.
Prostate cancer and treatment can affect each of these necessary functions. Pelvic Radiotherapy can cause cell and tissue deterioration, including damage to nerves and veins that are required to flood the penis with blood to create the hardness. Similarly non-nerve sparring surgery to remove the prostate gland can damage the nerves that relay pleasure message for sexual function. Finally many men are required to take androgen deprivation treatment resulting in reduced production of testosterone and therefore impeding normal erectile function.
Statistics show that 60-80% of men recovering from Prostate Cancer still have erectile dysfunction (ED) even 2 years after finishing treatment.
These messages around erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer are important for men to understand fully before they enter treatment. Many clinicians report that in the early stages of diagnosis the focus is on survival and messages about erectile dysfunction get lost. It is only after treatment that the late effects of the treatment become important. If men realised these long-term impacts earlier then they could take steps to rehabilitate their penis to keep its vitality and increase their chances of maintaining erectile function as a result. In the stark but real words of Prostate UK charity “use it or loose it”.
Despite these disturbing statistics and the realities faced by many there are solutions available for men recovering from cancer and its treatment. Pleasure Solutions is a company that provides advice, information and scientifically designed products to help people respond to life-altering changes to their sex lives.
There are several products that can be helpful for men suffering from the after effects of prostate cancer treatments.
One of these is the innovative TENGA egg uses a super-stretchable material that can be used on a non-erect penis. Using an egg regularly will keep blood flowing into the tissues of the penis – keeping it strong, healthy and less likely to shrink in size.
The hope is that individuals or couples using these TENGA eggs will maintain intimacy during a difficult time and even if an erection is not achieved the pleasure provided by these tools could lead to an orgasm. It is important to demystify the association that a man needs an erection to climax.
Therefore, the diagnosis of prostate cancer does not need to mean the likely loss of erections. With the right attention and advice men ought to be encouraged to play with their prize organ, even when they don’t feel like it. This is the sure way to learning that intimacy and pleasure might be different after a prostate cancer diagnosis, but they don’t have to be over’