September 13, 2012 (Tampa, Fla.) – Immediately after a prostate cancer diagnosis, a man’s first thought is about beating the disease. But what happens after the treatment, when the possible side effects from chemotherapy, surgery or radiation therapy change the libido? Frank Franzese, M.D., CyberKnife Centers of Tampa Bay’s medical director, is offering his advice during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month on how to find a new normal after prostate cancer.
“Sex is a part of living life, so having questions about intimacy and any changes that may occur during cancer treatment is only natural,” says Dr. Franzese. “Unfortunately, while it’s a topic often mentioned in passing, men rarely discuss sexual problems with their physicians and spouse.”
While some treatments, like CyberKnife, have very few sexual side effects, options like surgery or chemotherapy typically cause infertility and/or erectile dysfunction.
So what can one do keep the fire alive when faced with diagnosis and the effects of treatment? Dr. Franzese offers advice on returning to intimacy for the many men who face this challenge every day.
Collect the Facts
“Understanding prostate cancer, treatment and why your libido is affected by it is a big step in improving your quality of life,” says Dr. Franzese. “Ask questions and learn as much as you can about how it all affects your sexuality. Knowledge truly is power, and knowing what to expect will help you better prepare for what’s to come.”
Dr. Franzese encourages patients to ask questions – all of them, even the tough ones. Conducting independent research and talking with others with similar experiences are also valuable ways of getting the answers and making the best treatment decision for each individual.
Talk to Your Partner
When it comes to intimacy, utilizing two-way communication is vital to maintaining a sexual relationship.
“Your partner may fear that sex may hurt you or simply not know how to adjust to the changes taking place with your libido,” says Dr. Franzese. “Having an open, communicative relationship will help you both know what will and will not work when moving back into intimacy.”
Don’t Let Frustration Take Over
It’s completely understandable to feel frustrated, confused and mourn the loss of how intimacy used to be. Dr. Franzese encourages men to not dwell on what’s lost, but instead find what works for them today. Though it may take some trial and error, it’s important to keep moving towards that new normal.
Discuss Your Options
Having open communication with a doctor will also help prostate cancer patients in their recreate the connection. “Your specific situation can be induced with a number of different factors, including treatment type, side effects, extent of the cancer and overall health,” says Franzese. “Talking to your doctor and identifying the causes of your sexual difficulties will aid in helping you overcome them.”
Discussing the options doesn’t have to start after a diagnosis. Dr. Franzese says being proactive about the side effects of treatment is crucial to getting to that new normal.