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Life Beyond Cancer - Sexual Issues for Men

Scroll through these topics or click on one to go directly to that content.

Loss of Sexual Desire (Male)

Loss of sexual desire is a common complaint among men diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment, especially in men taking medication to decrease the amount of testosterone in the body. Because testosterone plays such an important role in the male libido, a man’s sexual desire drops substantially when levels of testosterone have been diminished. This type of treatment is known as androgen deprivation therapy and is used for advanced prostate cancer. Loss of sexual desire is extremely distressing to men as it is usually a part of their everyday lives.

What can you do?
Most of all, it is important to keep open lines of communication with your partner and your health care provider. Other ideas might include:

  • Healthy diet and exercise
  • Consider speaking to a sex therapist
  • Consider bringing your partner to medical appointments.  This will be helpful to your health care provider and will give you support.
  • Your partner may need to initiate sexual activity
  • Hold hands, cuddle, touch, kiss
  • Ask your doctor about intermittent androgen deprivation therapy 
  • Consider an alternative  therapy such as acupuncture

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Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is also common among men undergoing cancer treatment and men who have undergone surgery. Although the world would not know that you are having difficulty with erectile dysfunction, the ability to have erections and be sexual is a part of who you are, your self esteem, and your masculinity. This is very distressing and can affect your relationship with your partner.

What can you do?
It is common for men to be prescribed oral medication to increase the chance of erections. It is important to talk to your health care provider about this topic as there are several options that may be available to you.  Options may include:

  • Oral medications
  • Vacuum devices
  • Intraurethral pellets
  • Injections
  • Couples counseling

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Altered Body Image

Like women, men have body image issues too, and it is not uncommon to focus your attention on the affected area.  Maybe you have been diagnosed with colon cancer and have a colostomy. It is perfectly normal to feel shy about showing your body to your partner. You might be afraid of what their reaction will be.  Consider allowing your partner to see your body. This is a chance to share with your partner. Chances are your partner has imagined far worse than what actually exists. What’s important is that you keep communicating with your partner.  Other suggestions include:

  • Ask your surgeon ahead of time to see pictures. You will then be better prepared and know what to expect.
  • If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, consider seeing a stoma therapist. These professionals often have strategies to help you deal with living with an ostomy.
  • Consider a local support group.
  • Consider speaking to someone who has also undergone the same procedure as you.

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Men Cancer Sex: Wonderful book about changes that many men
 experience with sexuality and practical advice about what to do about it.

Sex Information and Education Council of the United

Society for Sex Therapy and

Rekindling Desire: A Step by Step Program to Help
 Low Sex or No Sex Marriages by McCarthy, M. & McCarthy, E.

Discovering Your Sexual Style: The Key to Sexual
 Satisfaction by McCarthy, M. & McCarthy, E.

Family Acupuncture Center in Kennebunk, ME (207) 985-0099

Coping with Erectile Dysfunction:  How to Regain Confidence and
 Enjoy Great Sex by McCarthy, M. & McCarthy, E.

Men’s Sexual Health by Metz & McCarthy

The New Love and Sex Over Sixty by Butler, R.N. & Lewis, M.J. (2002)

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

The United Ostomy



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