Men's Sexuality & Cancer Treatment (Part 2)

During and after cancer treatment, men often experience changes in their sexuality. Practitioners should be able to speak openly with their male patients and their partners regarding these physical and emotional changes. In Part 2 of this program, we focus on sexuality during and after cancer treatment.

In this episode, we are returning to the topic of men’s sexuality, this time during and after cancer treatment. 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.
 

Key Take-Aways

 

Sexuality after treatment
After treatment, it can take time to restore your patient’s core vitality. Naturopathic treatment can rebuild overall health through the use of adaptogens, supplementation and exercise. 

Ironically, when someone is fatigued, exercise can be one of their greatest allies in restoring energy and vitality. 


Erectile dysfunction
For many men, prostate cancer leaves them with erectile dysfunction issues. There are several treatment options to address erectile dysfunction. 

The first line in conventional therapy is the phosphodiesterase inhibitors, including Viagra and Cialis.  

The second level of support is to work with vacuum erectile devices and penile injections. The third line of therapy is to use penile implants.


Sexuality after prostate surgery
One of the recommendations for men after prostate surgery is to have erections and intercourse as much as possible, with a view to helping reestablish the normal circulation in the penis.

Naturopathic physicians can recommend hydrotherapy, such as alternating hot and cold baths. We can suggest a range of therapies to improve the circulation in the pelvic region.


Renegotiating the sexual relationship
It’s important to include your patient’s partner into the discussion. Assumptions are made on both sides which can impact the quality of the relationship going forward. It’s important to address these and start a dialogue.

Only 10% of women and 14% of men actually have a conversation about renegotiating sexual relationship with their partner. The partner may also feel guilty. Also, the patient may feel suddenly inadequate.

For instance, the patient may think “I can't have an erection so she is going to leave me”. Whereas his partner is more concerned about his survival. 

Communication is more important than ever and the practitioner can play a key role in getting these issues out in the open.


Grieving
If the patient is in palliative care or a hospice, it's important to allow for privacy for the couple to experience intimate contact if they desire it. 

In the case of LGBTQ couples, research reveals that only about 5% of partners are given appropriate support. In some cases, partners have been denied access because they do not conform to institutional standards for marriage or family partnerships.

Thankfully this is changing. 
 

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