Prostate Cancer Counseling Helps Couples' Sex Lives, Says Study

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Sexual Function Can Return After Prostate Cancer

After three months, the couples who had received no counseling benefits were assigned one of the two treatment options.

Both partners in the relationship filled out questionnaires assessing their sexual function and satisfaction before counseling, after treatment and at six months and one year later.

At the end of one year, 54 percent found effective treatments for their sexual dysfunction. On average, the group "looked like the score of men in a community who don't have erection problems," said Schover.

Men who were more sexually active before cancer treatments fare better than those who are not. And, not surprisingly, she said, men with younger partners or newer relationships also have more success in returning to full sexual function.

She said that many men who initially try erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra find that they don't work.

"It's not strong enough for those with severe problems," she said. "Most men just stop there and blame themselves and are not given adequate education."

Ginyard said his doctor informed him about treatments for potential impotence, but he wasn't listening.

"Quite frankly, I didn't even think about the side effects ever," he said. "Once they said I had cancer, I said, 'Get it out of me.'"

But later, it was devastating.

"Initially, my wife didn't know how to comfort me because it's a journey and only one person is actually going through it," he said. "The other, the spouse, is there to cheer you on."

But the couple had a breakthrough when Ginyard was going to daily radiation and had what he called his "female moment."

"Do you know what I am going through?" he asked his wife.

The couple had "the conversation we hadn't had in years," according to Ginyard.

As emotional intimacy grew -- and with the help of the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis -- the couple gradually was able to resume full sexual intercourse.

But the interpersonal relationship they developed was key, he said.

"In the evening we just started to reconnect again: 'How was your day?'" said Ginyard. "And it opened up so much dialogue that cancer and the sexual piece took a back seat. And when we did engage, it's been like a new and better love and appreciation for each other."

Today, Ginyard counsels other men through the advocacy group Zero: The Project to End Prostate Cancer, which he now says is his "calling."

Ginyard, who invented a women's tote bag, now donates some of the profits of his company, Shusokumb, to Zero.

"I wish that there had been something else to get my attention in life," he said. "But cancer was a wake-up call, and instead of the end, it has been the beginning of life."

As for his sex life, "Oh my God, it's improved," said Ginyard, who credits his age, exercise and a renewed relationship with his wife.

"My sexual life has come back," he said. "Full steam ahead."

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