Restoring your sex life

Prostate cancer can affect your sexuality in both physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as your treatment and its side effects, the way you and your partner communicate, and your self-confidence.

The importance of sexual activity for a man before prostate cancer will influence how changes to his sex life affect him (and his partner, if he has one) after treatment. Some men link their sense of masculinity with their sex drive, making adjusting to changes difficult. Others might feel they have lost a part of themselves or may question their self-worth.

For many people, a relationship based on trust and understanding is an important part of a satisfying, intimate sexual experience.

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Managing changes in your sex life

  • Talk about the changes and your feeling about sex. If you have a partner these changes will probably affect you both.
  • Give your sexual partner reassurance of your need for intimacy and affection for each other.
  • Be intimate without having sexual intercourse. Other ways of expressing love include touching, holding, caressing and massage.
  • Take time to get used to any changes. Look at yourself naked in the mirror and touch your genitals to feel any differences or soreness. Show your partner the changes so they can adjust to them.
  • Take things slowly with sex. Start by touching each other, then include some genital touching.
  • Attempt intercourse even with a partial erection. This stimulation may encourage further and better erections.
  • Explore your ability to enjoy sex by masturbating. This can help you find out if cancer treatment has changed your sexual response.
  • Use silicone-based lubricants if prolonged stimulation is necessary.
  • Ask your partner to be gentle, as the genital area may be tender. Practice reaching orgasm through hand-stroking or oral sex.
  • Try different positions to find out what feels comfortable for both of you. Having sex while kneeling or standing may also help with erections.
  • Talk to your doctor, a sexual health physician or counsellor if the changes are causing depression or problems in your relationship.

Communicating with a new partner

Deciding when to tell a new potential sexual partner about your cancer experience isn’t easy. Some single men may avoid dating for fear of rejection.

While the timing will be different for each person, it can be helpful to wait until you and your new partner have developed a mutual level of trust and caring. It is best to talk with a new partner about your concerns before becoming sexually intimate.

By communicating openly, you may find that your partner is more accepting and understanding.

This information was last reviewed in April 2016
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