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Let’s talk about sex – helping prostate cancer survivors cope with sexual dysfunction

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Last year, approximately 23,600 Canadian men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. The good news is more men are surviving than ever before – the 5-year survival rate is now 96%. Prostate cancer treatments offer an excellent chance for survival, but often leave men with sexual dysfunction. For the thousands of prostate cancer survivors in Canada, this side effect can have a significant negative impact on their overall quality of life.
With funding from the Canadian Cancer Society, Dr Andrew Matthew is conducting research designed to improve intimacy and sexual health for affected couples after prostate cancer surgery.

“Approximately 70% of men will suffer from some sexual dysfunction following prostate cancer surgery and 60% experience significant distress in response to this side effect,” explains Dr Matthew, a psychologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. “By helping patients and partners adapt and maintain intimacy, we hope to help them achieve the highest possible quality of life after treatment.”

The burden of sexual dysfunction after prostate cancer surgery has the single greatest impact on quality of life for patients, even more so than concern for cancer recurrence or any other post surgery side effect. In some severe cases, men even reported regretting their decision to be treated for prostate cancer.

To help patients and their partners manage sexual activity changes after surgery, Dr Matthew and his team are testing an innovative program of education and counselling that includes the patient and the partner and deals with the whole spectrum of medical, psychological, and social approaches to responding to sexual dysfunction.

“Thanks to advances in research and treatment, the growing number of cancer survivors is without doubt a great achievement,” explains Dr Matthew. “This type of survivorship research helps us to take cancer treatment beyond the treatment of the tumour to the treatment of the whole person through comprehensive, personalized survivorship care.”

Read more about sexuality and cancer in the Canadian Cancer Society's publication, Sexuality and Cancer

When cancer and treatment change the way you look, your self-esteem, sex drive and sex life can really be affected. Join in on our recent discussion here


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