After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. Upon receiving a diagnosis several questions may cross your mind. One of the questions that may cross your mind is, “How could prostate cancer impact my sexual function?” Sexual function after prostatectomy is a very important topic as it has been shown to impact self-esteem and quality of life. Almost all men will experience erectile dysfunction after prostatectomy, however approximately 50% will have return of their prior level of erectile function within 1 year of surgery. This statistic varies widely based on the surgeon, surgical technique, and the patient.
There are ways that you can help with recovery of sexual function:
1. Pelvic floor muscle exercises or “kegels” help to strengthen the muscles and provide blood flow to the pelvis that can assist with sexual function. Walking at least 30 minutes per day can also help to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles.
2. Avoid drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and excessive stress.
3. Once you have been cleared by your physician (often 6-12 weeks post-operatively) you can start self-stimulation or use of a vibrator near the head of the penis. This can help with stimulating the nerves and the rebuilding the arousal connection to your brain. This can also be a time to involve your partner, which can help with rebuilding physical and emotional intimacy.
Note: you may not initially be able to achieve an erection or ejaculation, but the goal is to help impact the nervous and vascular systems
4. To help avoid incontinence during sex, men should make sure their bladder is empty before they engage in sexual activity. Some men use a constriction ring to stop incontinence during sex and some wear a condom. In either case, open communication between a man and his partner can help relieve some of the embarrassment and stress associated with incontinence during sex.
5. Talk to your MD about medications and or hormones. If sexual function deficits persist, your MD can also provide you with alternative options such as a penile vacuum pump, injections, or surgical options.
While sexual function is a sensitive topic, remember that your healthcare providers are trained and experienced to assist with these issues. Please do not be afraid to ask questions or voice your concerns!