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Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex and Prostate Cancer

Publication: Healthy Magazine, McAllen

Let’s be honest. When anyone mentions “quality of life” in a discussion of prostate cancer treatment, what they often mean is sex. For most men, maintaining sexual function is a major consideration in deciding on treatment for prostate cancer. It’s an ultimate risk/benefit analysis that confronts more than 10,000 Texas men each year who are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer, the second deadliest cancer in the U.S. for men, is often called “the silent killer” because it often shows no symptoms. But a prostate cancer diagnosis is by no means a death sentence, thanks to advanced treatments and increasing awareness of screening.

Because surviving prostate cancer can include changes in quality of life, including sexual function, it’s important to know what to expect. The following questions and answers give a glimpse of what may lie ahead and background for a more detailed conversation with your physician. Q: WHAT SEXUAL SIDE EFFECTS CAN I EXPECT? A: For nearly every man diagnosed with prostate cancer, treatment will make it difficult to sustain an erection, at least temporarily. Working with a physician with expertise in prostate cancer improves the likelihood of regaining sexual function. For men who face persistent difficulties after treatment, there are options to help improve sexual performance.

Nearly all men treated for prostate cancer are infertile afterward. Additionally, men who choose hormone suppression therapy may experience decreased sexual desire during treatment but exercise can help moderate hormone therapy’s side effects.

Q: WILL THESE SEXUAL SIDE EFFECTS LAST? HOW LONG? A: Whether or not erectile difficulties persist depends on the type of treatment and patients should consider this factor when discussing treatment options with their physician. One year after treatment, most men see noticeable improvement. For men who choose a surgical option, erectile function usually improves with time. For men who choose a radiation option, side effects usually do not improve with time but may be lesser to begin with. The loss of libido and sexual function with hormone suppression is usually temporary and returns with the cessation of treatment.

Q: DO I HAVE TREATMENT CHOICES? A: Several forms of treatment are available including surgery, hormone suppression, surveillance and several types of radiation. Because every case is different, a discussion with a physician about the option best suited for the patient is important. For men with less-aggressive tumors, “watchful waiting,” which consists of a vigilant screening schedule, may be a better option.

Q: CAN I DO ANYTHING TO MAKE IT BETTER? A: Yes, there are several tactics to help with erectile dysfunction. Medications help many men achieve and control erections; however, these medications are not appropriate for men with certain heart conditions. For those who wish to avoid a medication, their physicians can recommend others aids or surgical options.

Men facing prostate cancer should understand that knowledge is power and open discussion is key. Physicians can provide expert insights on treatment side effects including how to cope with or avoid them. Many groups, including the American Cancer Society and Us TOO, offer support networks and resources for men with prostate cancer and those who love them.

By Guillermo Lazo, M.D., Texas Oncology–McAllen

To view the original story, please click here.

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