Manhood and prostate cancer

Tāne 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.

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, whānau, your doctor or a counsellor. 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, rub dirt on, walk off, you have to deal with it.

Paul, 69
During and after treatment, you
might experience changes to your:

Body changes

Everybody wants to feel comfortable in their own skin. But some treatments can leave you feeling like you don’t even recognise your own tinana anymore. Low energy, extra weight, less muscle, decreased stamina, nausea — all of this and more can make you look in the mirror and say, “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 whānau, 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 tāne 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 tāne is more than his penis. He is a friend, partner, brother, father, whanaunga 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 tāne 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 the 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. Tāne 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 counsellor about ways to feel satisfied.

How might prostate cancer treatment affect my sex life?

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, care team or hauora provider

  • being honest with yourself and others

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

Additional resources

Find a support group or network near you
Cancer Society of New Zealand

Access cancer support nurses, one-on-one support and counselling services

What's next?

Now that you've read up on Manhood and prostate cancer, here are some related articles to explore as you continue to build your knowledge and understanding of this topic.
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