Can you be sexually active after prostate cancer?
In short, yes. Sex and intimacy after prostate cancer can look different for everyone, but there are options to keep your sex life thriving. Exploring new ways to have sexual pleasure and intimacy is essential after your prostate cancer treatment—it can even be a form of penile rehabilitation, a way to improve your erections. And can include plenty of experimenting, communication and support from sexual health experts. While it can be challenging to have sex after prostate cancer, trying new things can also be pretty enjoyable.
Let’s take a moment to cover some key points about sexual health and wellbeing and why it’s important to understand.
What’s sexual wellbeing about?
Sexual wellbeing has not always been a common topic of conversation, but that’s changing—and good thing, too. A healthy focus on sexual wellbeing balances the physical, social, and emotional aspects of sex. And after prostate cancer treatment, understanding sexual wellbeing becomes even more important.
How your body functions sexually—ability to feel desire, arousal, have an orgasm.
How you feel about sex. Confidence as a lover, ability to feel pleasure, how you feel about your body.
How sex works in a relationship with a partner. Ability to feel comfort, trust, and intimacy.
Your sexual wellbeing is just as important as the rest of you.
Just as you think of staying healthy physically, sexual wellbeing is important for your mental health and happiness too.
Think about it. Want to stay physically fit? You might go to the gym, take a walk or get moving somehow. You might even work out with an exercise expert or partner. All with the goal of feeling better, taking care of yourself and enjoying more of life.
With your sexual health, the same thinking applies. There are exercises, medications and strategies that may help you improve. And you might work with someone like a sexual health expert to get your sex life after prostate cancer back on track.
The key in regaining your sexual wellbeing after prostate cancer treatment is to acknowledge what’s changed so that you can do something about it, with the right support. It’s also important to recognize that what’s important to you may be different than what’s important to someone else—and that’s OK. For example, you might be more focused on regaining erections and your partner might want to work on nonsexual intimacy. Talking openly about your goals and priorities will help you create a plan together.
Is sexual wellbeing just about sex?
No, it’s much more than that.
Sexual wellbeing is about how you express yourself, either as an individual or in a relationship. It’s focused on more than just your physical body. It’s about your thoughts, feelings and relationships as well.
When all of these are integrated and intact, your sexual wellbeing thrives.
Working on sexual wellbeing and sex after prostate cancer: where to start
Got a partner?
Now’s the time to talk and listen to each other. Your sex life is undergoing some changes, but together you can come out on top. But it’s essential that you communicate with your partner about sex and how you will navigate the changes after prostate cancer.
Acknowledging these changes might be difficult at first, but you are teammates on this. You’re in it together.
Keep some patience handy
Improving your sex life is a journey, not a quick fix. Keep realistic expectations about your recovery. If you’re overly optimistic or too much in a hurry, disappointment could settle in.
While setbacks can happen, successes are possible too.
Here’s what other men and couples have found helped with their sexual recovery after treatment:
Acknowledge sexual changes
Express your grief about losing the ability to have sex as you know it, alone and to each other or to others who support you.
Experiment and explore new ways of being sexual together; the same will be true for the man with a new partner.
Communicate about new sexual needs and roles; for single men, this means thinking through how to approach the topic with a new partner.
Remember good feelings about your ability as a lover, your sexual relationship, and use them as a way to have confidence about the future.