Manhood and prostate cancer

Close up of Black man looking out at city buildings

Men are often told to “man up”—to be fearless and tough no matter what. But these expectations leave one feeling like they have to keep quiet and fix everything on their own, especially when times are difficult. The truth is you don’t have to deal with any of this alone.

Prostate cancer can change the way you feel about yourself

It’s OK to talk about challenges you’re facing, including sex and confidence in yourself. You deserve support, whether it’s from a partner, friends, family, your doctor, or a counselor. Opening up about your needs, thoughts, and concerns, even when uncomfortable, shows real courage.

In a lot of ways, men are brought up to be macho—you don’t complain, you don’t have things wrong with you. But prostate cancer isn’t something you can just spit on, run dirt on, walk off, you have to deal with it.

Paul, 69

    During and after treatment, you might experience changes to your:

  1. Body.

  2. Sex life.

  3. Confidence.

Body changes

Everybody wants to feel comfortable in their own skin. But some treatments can leave you feeling like you don’t even recognize your own body anymore. Low energy, extra weight, less muscle, decreased stamina, nausea—all of this and more can make you look in the mirror and ask, “WHO IS THIS?”

At times like these, you'll need to dig deeper. Yes, your body is changing, but while you come to terms, try to remember that your body is doing its best to survive—be proud. You also have to remember your support system. Talk to your family, close friends, or partner—the people who love you for you.

On top of that, you can find support groups (in-person and online) where other men are going through the same thing. You may not want to talk at first, but it really is one of the best things you can do. Exercise can also be a big help, and it’s a great way to clear your mind.

Sex and being a man

We’ll say it upfront: a man is more than his penis. He is a friend, partner, brother, father, and more.

While bodily changes can leave you worried about fulfilling your (or your partner’s) sexual needs, there are things you can do to take control. Some issues, however, will take time, patience, and honesty.

In particular, if you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction (ED), keep in mind:

  • Being a man goes beyond the ability to achieve penetrative sex.

  • Your partner cares about you and your frustrations. In fact, seeing you upset may be more stressful than not engaging in penetrative sex.

  • You made a critical decision to treat prostate cancer. ED may be a side effect of treatment—but it’s not the end of your sex life.

  • You need time to heal and regain function. The time it takes is different for everyone, so be patient.

  • Having cancer is not your fault, and having ED is not your fault either.

While working through issues with sex, remember that it’s important to understand your own needs, as well as your partner’s. Men who talk openly with their partner and adjust to new routines together, typically do better in recovering their sex life. It also helps to talk to your doctor or a sexual health counselor about ways to feel satisfied.

Confidence in your manhood

Confidence is often associated with your body and sex, but your worth goes beyond the physical. As you go along the prostate cancer journey, remember that real strength is:

  • Speaking up when you need help.

  • Understanding you can’t do it all.

  • Letting others know when to step in.

  • Showing people how to support you.

  • Talking to your doctor or care team.

  • Being honest with yourself and others.

Know that you're valuable to your loved ones, for who you are as a person. And if you need help remembering, it’s OK to ask for what you need.