Getting in the mood after prostate cancer surgery

Some people say that prostate cancer surgery decreases your sexual desire, but the truth is a bit more complicated.

Generally speaking, men keep their ability to feel desire after surgery for prostate cancer.

On top of that, the nerves in your penis that help you feel pleasure are not harmed by prostate cancer surgery. So how it feels to touch yourself or be touched on and near your penis will not change, and can spark feelings of desire.

However, not being able to get a firm enough erection after surgery can cause stress, anxiety, anger, and even embarrassment. Some men feel that they are less than a man. These feelings can lower your desire to have sex and make it difficult to get in the mood.

What can you do?

Talk to your partner

Communicate openly with your partner if you have one. Talk to a close friend or someone who has been through the experience.

Talking about your concern can help you feel connected to your partner and may decrease your feeling of disappointment.

Keep your perspective

Remind yourselves that the inability to have a firm erection is directly caused by the surgery, not a lack of attraction or a permanent loss of sex.

Discuss the medications and devices that can help you create erections.

Talk about how comfortable you feel about different erection aids. Are you willing to try a vacuum erection device (penis pump)? Erection pills or injections? If you’re both involved in learning about the options and how to use them, you may feel more comfortable.

Explore alternatives

There are lots of other pleasurable activities besides just penetrative sex, and men don’t need to have an erection to reach orgasm. Kissing, cuddling, massage, using your mouth, or hands, or a vibrator to stimulate to orgasm — all of it can lead to an enjoyable experience even without an erection.

Talk to your doctor, nurse or care team

Find the right option

Your healthcare provider can help you choose the erection aid (or aids) that will align with your goals and values. They’ll explain how to use it, what to look out for, and what you can expect.

Get extra support

Your doctor can also refer you to a counselor or certified sex therapist. Coping with these changes can be really tough, and there are people who can help you and your partner work through the emotional part of it.

Look ahead

Most men will not have a return of erections firm enough for penetrative sex.

Learning how much erectile function you’ll get back can take up to 2 to 3 years. Some men will need the help of erection pills, devices or some type of aid longer-term.

Remember that each time you have a successful sexual encounter (with or without an erection), you’re keeping your connection as a couple and stoking your desire for sex.

Most of all, try to stay patient with your body, and with each other.

Men with erection problems try to have penetrative sex, without success

The failure to get an erection causes frustration, embarrassment, even anger.

Partners feel helpless and struggle to know how they can be supportive

Patients and partners think erection problems are linked to lower sexual desire

Couples become upset and confused; try to understand “failed” attempt at penetrative sex.

Less-than-enjoyable experience lowers couple’s desire to try to have sex again

Fact Check

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