Men's Sexuality & Cancer Treatment (Part 1)

Many men go through profound changes in their sex life during and after cancer treatment. These include both physical and emotional changes, which is why it is important for practitioners to be able to speak openly and thoughtfully with their male patients and their partners about this sensitive topic.

In this episode, we are returning to the topic of sexuality during and after cancer treatment, this time with the focus on men's sexuality. Our guide in this series of programs is Dr Judith Boice, who has been in practice for 27 years. She is a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, an international bestselling author and an award-winning educator.

Our focus is on the physical and emotional impact of cancer treatment on men - and their partners. We will also discuss how to speak to male patients about the challenges they face through cancer treatment.

Watch Part Two here.


Key Take-Aways

Reluctance of male patients to start a dialogue 
Many times patients are looking to you, the practitioner, to begin this conversation. They may have major concerns, but are either afraid, reluctant, or embarrassed about bringing up the topic.

Often they are terrified; concerned about not being able to enjoy the same degree of sexual function they are used to, or they are fearful of losing their partner. 

Desire to live
Immediately after a cancer diagnosis, while still in shock, your patient may be thinking “I'm just interested in surviving. Who cares about sexuality?” However, the treatment that patients endure will have a profound impact on their sexuality later. 

Often, the effects of the treatments are not properly explained ahead of time, so patients are often not able to make informed decisions about what is most important to them. These are not easy or pleasant choices. 

Challenges men face during cancer treatment
Fatigue is often a huge issue. If a body is fatigued, if it is under stress, and the first system to suffer is the reproductive system; so interest in sex, the ability to have an erection, or to have an orgasm are all affected. 

Your patient has to have enough core vitality to be interested in sex and to be able to have sexual intercourse. Some men may also experience changes in their body shape.  They may be gaining weight or losing weight.

In addition, pain can occur in different parts of the patient’s body, depending on where their treatment is affecting them. All of these factors can have a profound impact on a patient's sexuality.

Effects of pain
Prostate surgery or radiation treatment for prostate cancer causes pain in the surrounding perineal region. Also, radiation increases fatigue in the body as a whole. 

In addition, if men are prescribed opioids to help manage pain, they will experience reduced motility in the digestive tract and will be prone to constipation. Understandably, all of these side effects affect an individual's sexuality.

Fertility issues
Depending on the type of cancer, male’s will have reduced fertility after cancer treatment. If a couple is interested in having children, it is important to plan for the impact of their treatment on their sperm health.

Key Quotes  

“One of the first things I ask is, are you interested in talking about sex? Are you interested in talking about sexuality? Has that been a concern to you? And you may need to ask it more than once. Sure. So, bring it up gently.” 
Dr Judith Boice

 “We've talked a lot about the sexuality of the individual that's received the diagnosis. But actually in celebrating and expanding and deepening that sexuality, the role falls just as much to the partner to lead that and to make it normal and to make it special and different and new and exciting. So, there's a role for everyone to come together on this.”
E Brian Johnson 

 “One of the most important long-term sex organs, is your mouth. You're talking as well as pleasuring your partner with your mouth. Communication is hugely important, and that goes both ways, both for the partner and for the patient and the recovery process to be in communication with each other.” 
Dr Judith Boice


The opinions expressed in this Nutramedica program are those of the guests and contributors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Nutritional Fundamentals For Health Inc.

This video is intended for licensed or registered health professionals and students of health professions only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Information contained in these programs are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.