Many patients with cancer experience long-term sexual dysfunctions. The sex problems in men usually accompany prostate cancer, pelvic tumours and colorectal cancer. A sexual dysfunction is characterised by problem/s during any phase of the sexual response cycle, which prevents a man or couple from experiencing satisfactory sexual pursuit. [Read: Common Sexual Health Problems in Men]
Cancer and Sexual Health
- Colorectal Cancer – Besides complications of the bladder, surgery for rectal cancer may cause sexual dysfunctions in men. Men, who have been treated for colorectal cancer, may experience problems with erection, ejaculation and orgasm. The reason for these sexual complications is disruption of blood supply due to injuries to the nerves in the pelvic cavity.
- Prostate Cancer – Treatments for prostate cancer can seldom preserve erectile function. The side-effects of radiation therapy on erectile function are certain and may even be as critical as the loss of erectile function. Radical prostatectomy, another treatment for prostate cancer, puts one at a high risk of damaging nerves and opening blood vessels wider. [Read: Advanced Treatment Options of Prostate Cancer]
- Pelvic Tumours – Men, who have had their bladder, colon and rectum removed, may have sex problems. There is a fair chance of preserving erectile function with the precise use of nerve-sparing surgical procedure.
Factors Affecting Sexual Function in Men with Cancer
- Physical as well as psychological factors contribute to the development of sexual dysfunction in men. Sex problems may occur in any phase of the sexual response cycle, which includes excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution.
- Physical factors affecting men include loss of function of sexual organ owing to the effects of cancer treatments. [Read: Manage Side-effects of Cancer Treatment]
- Psychological factors, such as depression, feelings of guilt from disbeliefs of cancer and its treatment, body changes after surgery and post treatment stress can hamper personal relationships.
- Chemotherapy side-effects, such as nausea, vomiting, weight loss or weight gain and loss of hair may affect the individual’s self-image and make him/her feel unattractive or unwanted. Chemotherapy may also hamper testosterone production in the testicles. Similar to chemotherapy, radiation therapy sessions can also decrease feelings of sexuality or cause erection problems.
- Pain medications and therapies for recovery are among other reasons that affect sexual functions in men. Ejaculation problems, which include premature ejaculation, inhibited or retarded ejaculation and retrograde ejaculation, are associated with medications.
- Surgical treatments for the removal of cancer cells may have negative effects on sexual function of men with prostate cancer and pelvic tumours.
Choosing the right treatment option for cancer is very important to ensure that the side-effects are minimised. A doctor must be consulted to improve or regain sexual functions. Most sexual dysfunctions are treatable, but the hesitant attitude often gets in the way of treatment.
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