Sexual activity is a key component of healthy adult relationships, but for many men with prostate cancer, expressing this in the traditional sense is not always possible. Despite improved therapies, many men diagnosed with prostate cancer face erectile dysfunction as a side effect of some of the treatment used. Others may lose their desire for sex as a result of medical therapy — a topic that is often not fully addressed or avoided altogether. This lack of communication can lead to a strain on intimate relationships.
This hits close to home for many patients with prostate cancer, including Robert, a Baltimore-based entrepreneur and prostate cancer survivor and advocate. “When I speak with other patients with prostate cancer, I notice one of the first things that comes to their mind is fear of impotence and its impact on their sexual activity. Sometimes, that fear deters them, especially those who are younger, from seeking proper testing — that worries me,” he said.
Diagnosed at age 48, Robert underwent prostate cancer surgery, followed by radiation and hormone therapy. Like many other men, he struggled with impotence during treatment. However, instead of letting the experience hinder his relationship, it was then that Robert and his wife learned to grow their intimacy on a deeper level. Today, Robert regularly speaks with men and their families about his experience, including tackling life after a cancer diagnosis.
“After talking to my wife about her needs, I learned that for many women, intimacy is not confined to physical interaction, and can be harnessed emotionally just as strongly. My experience has taught me to tap into a new level of intimacy through other channels of satisfaction in our relationship, whether it’s through something as simple as holding hands or taking long walks together, and being honest about what we value in our relationship,” said Robert.
Robert stresses the importance of having open conversations with one’s doctor and partner. This can include discussing and exploring other ways for physical and sexual satisfaction, as well as ways to express intimacy in a nonphysical way. The relationship that Robert had built with his healthcare team allowed him and his wife to ask questions about sexual side effects that helped them chart a path forward.
Robert is reminded every day that prostate cancer affects the whole family, not just the man. So, men with prostate cancer should have an open and honest conversation with their loved one about what really matters in a fulfilling relationship, what adjustments need to be made, and be prepared to develop a new path forward together that strengthens their bond even more.
For more information on this topic, visit www.MyProstateCancerRoadmap.com, a website that is dedicated to providing in-depth information that can help patients have meaningful conversations with their loved ones and healthcare team.
About My Prostate Cancer Roadmap
My Prostate Cancer Roadmap is an educational resource that can help patients, caregivers and support group leaders navigate through the advanced prostate cancer journey. The site features a section titled “Viewpoints from the Road,” which provides key perspectives and advice from patients and caregivers, who have faced similar challenges. Newly diagnosed patients and interested caregivers can receive up-to-date information and hear personal perspectives from patients, caregivers and advocates via periodic email updates directly from My Prostate Cancer Roadmap by registering at www.MyProstateCancerRoadmap.com/register. For more prostate cancer information and resources, please visit https://zerocancer.org/.
 Harvard Prostate Cancer Knowledge. New Options for Treating Erectile Dysfunction. Accessed July 2017. Available at: http://www.harvardprostateknowledge.org/new-options-for-treating-erectile-dysfunction.
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