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News » Filed under: Prostate Cancer

Sex Counseling After Prostate Treatment Helps Couples

Article date: October 12, 2011

By Stacy Simon

Prostate cancer survivors and their partners had more success in recovering their sex life when they went through couples therapy, according to a study published in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society. The study showed that face-to-face counseling and online counseling were equally effective in improving sexual satisfaction and function.

Surgery and radiation treatment for prostate cancer can cause some men to lose the ability to have erections, or have difficulty getting them. This is because removing or irradiating the prostate gland sometimes damages the nerves nearby that are needed for an erection. In addition, both surgery and radiation run the risk of damaging blood vessels that supply blood to the penis to allow an erection. The problem can be permanent or temporary.

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center studied 231 couples to find out if counseling could help them improve their sex life. All the men in the study had been treated for prostate cancer with either removal of the prostate or radiation therapy. The couples were treated with either face-to-face counseling sessions or online counseling sessions, or they were put on a waiting list for counseling.

Sexual satisfaction and functioning improved for couples who participated in either the face-to-face or the online counseling, according to questionnaires they filled out. And the improvement lasted as long as one year after the counseling ended. There was no improvement for couples while still on the waiting list.

Online counseling has practical advantages

Lead researcher Leslie Schover, PhD, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, says an internet-based program may be easier to implement because it costs less money in counselor time and it allows experts to help patients who live far away from a city or cancer center. She also says some patients and their partners are not comfortable speaking to a therapist in person about sexual issues and prefer an online program.

“Not only do men often use the internet to search for information on sex, but prostate cancer patients consider the web a valuable resource for information on the impact of treatment on sex,” said Schover.

Read our guide on Sexuality for the Man With Cancer to learn more about how cancer and cancer treatments can affect your sex life.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

Citation: A Randomized Trial of Internet-Based Versus Traditional Sexual Counseling for Couples After Localized Prostate Cancer Treatment. Published online in the journal Cancer on Sept. 26, 2011. First author: Leslie R. Schover, PhD, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

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