The good news is many men survive prostate cancer, the most common of male cancers. The bad news is treatment often blights their sex lives - at least in the short term. The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is hosting a public information session to discuss ways of getting men's sex lives back on track after prostate cancer therapy.
"The prostate gland supplies the fluid for a male orgasm. Treatment for prostate cancer may involve surgery, radiation to the pelvis, or hormone therapy," explains MUHC urologist Dr Peter Chan, who is a speaker at the event. "Often, the delicate nerves responsible for erections are damaged during certain treatments for prostate cancer, resulting in sexual problems."
As many as three-quarters of men who receive surgery for prostate cancer eventually recover to pre-treatment levels of erectile function. Recovery time varies and can range from three months to two years, depending on the individual's pre-treatment level of sexuality, the nature and stage of his cancer, and the types of treatment involved.
"Men often report erectile dysfunction, loss of sex drive and 'dry orgasms' after treatment," says Dr Dennis Kalogeropoulos, clinical psychologist in the Sex and Couple Therapy Service of the Department of Psychology at the MUHC and a speaker at the event. "These physical problems can be compounded by anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties and failure to adjust to new physical realities.
"Recovery takes time. During that time, it's important not to avoid sexual intimacy, even if it doesn't always lead to intercourse. Counselling may help those who are concerned about post-treatment sexual issues."
Drugs also have a role to play. "After prostate cancer surgery, many men are able to achieve an erection using one of the new medications for erectile dysfunction," says Dr Chan. "But these medications may not work immediately. As the patients recover from the prostate surgery they may have a better response to the various therapies for erection. Unfortunately, some men are discouraged during the early phase of their recovery when the medications do not work. When they can't get an erection immediately after prostate surgery they think, 'Oh no! Even Viagra doesn't work! I'm finished.' That's not true at all."
This lecture, third of a series of sexual public health lectures hosted by the MUHC, is a joint venture of the departments of Psychology – Sex and Couple Therapy Service and Urology. This series will provide up-to-date information on key issues pertaining to sexual health.
The event will be held on June 17, 2004 at 6:30 pm in the JSL Browne Amphitheatre, at the Royal Victoria Hospital.