A Partner’s Perspective
Prostate cancer impacts not only the patient, but also his family, friends and in particular, his spouse or partner. As a caregiver or supporter, you can play an important role in supporting him and helping him navigate important healthcare decisions, difficult emotional challenges and potentially unpleasant side effects.
Discuss prostate cancer treatment options with the doctor, and ask about possible side effects, which can include sexual trouble, incontinence and infertility. Many men have trouble speaking about these intimate issues, even with those close to them. Talking openly is an important first step in resolving these important issues. Below are common topics that impact partners who support loved ones with a prostate cancer diagnosis.
Sexual Side Effects & Intimacy
A common concern of men and their significant others following a prostate cancer diagnosis is the potential impact on their relationship. For some men, treatment may lead to sexual side effects, which can impact intimacy between couples.
The first challenge couples face when navigating intimacy issues is that many men simply do not want to talk about the issue. It is likely that he will be emotionally burdened during this time and may even face depression. Open and honest discussion is recommended, and it may be helpful to find support through friends, family, faith communities, professional counselors or support groups. Depending on the risk level of his prostate cancer, some of these side effects may be avoidable, so it is important to fully understand the treatment options available based on his diagnosis.
To ease stress and anxiety related to intimacy after a prostate cancer diagnosis or treatment, it may help to proactively discuss with the doctor the options for restoring sexual function following treatment. Remember, recovery takes time. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, using ED treatments as directed, and adapting sexual practices to maintain intimacy are essential steps to preserving sexual function after prostate cancer treatment. Don’t be afraid to encourage your partner to see a therapist to manage these emotional and physical challenges.
Changes to His Lifestyle
Depending on treatment, some men may experience incontinence – either urinary or bowel dysfunction – as a side effect, particularly from surgery or radiation therapy. While the degree to which men experience incontinence varies, from mild post-surgery issues to long-term difficulties, it can often be embarrassing, stressful and limiting to your loved one’s lifestyle. Understanding his prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment options and speaking openly can help him feel more comfortable discussing these side effects.
If he experiences incontinence based on treatment, there are options to help manage the side-effects – drugs that help improve urine flow, changes in diet to improve bowel movements, or surgical options such as a urethral slings and even artificial urinary sphincters.
Certain treatments, despite the best efforts of surgeons or radiologists, almost always lead to infertility – meaning men of any age who undergo these treatments may be unable to naturally conceive children. Surgical procedures remove organs essential to ejaculation of sperm, whereas radiation and chemotherapy can damage semen production and sperm.
If, as a couple, you would like to have children following treatment, there are options. For prostate cancer patients who wish to father children in the future, sperm banking, a process in which semen is collected and frozen prior to prostate cancer treatment, is a common choice.
If having children is something you might consider following treatment, be sure to discuss infertility concerns with the doctor before choosing a treatment.
Visit Us TOO to learn more about potential side effects that may impact you and your partner.