As if getting prostate cancer weren’t bad enough, thousands of WA men are needlessly losing their ability to have sex – all because they’re not getting the right treatment. So says sex therapist and psychologist Bettina Arndt. She’s coming to Perth on February 28 for some public seminars on Sex After Prostate Cancer. Bettina writes for The Starfish.
By Bettina Arndt
“Australia now has the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the developed world, with 22 000 new cases diagnosed every year. But, reassuringly, this figure is all about the fact that more of our cancers are being picked up, due to testing, public education and so on.
What’s really worrying, though, is that large numbers of men are receiving treatments that leave them incontinent and impotent. Shocking figures from a Cancer Council NSW study reveal that five years after a radical prostatectomy, 75 per cent of the men have erectile dysfunction and 12 per cent are still incontinent. These aren’t just old men, ready to hang up their spurs. Almost 15 000 men under 35 have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
That’s the problem: we are treating the cancer, perhaps too aggressively on some occasions, but not doing enough to help men with the consequences of the treatment. Problems include: poor education of doctors; many older doctors only interested in doing the surgery but not in the long term effects of the treatments; men too embarrassed to talk about it; poor, inaccurate information about how to deal with these issues.
It’s very rare that the incontinence can’t be quickly sorted out – Perth is a leader in innovative programs being run by physios to teach men to avoid these problems. It’s vital that men are helped to get erections early after the treatment, as early blood flow in the penis is critical to regaining sexual functioning. Yet many men wait for months, even years, hoping everything will get back to normal. Finally, they try to find someone to help with their erectile dysfunction– but by then it’s too late, the damage is done.
It’s shocking how much ignorance there is about all this. But West Australia is streets ahead of many other states in helping men recover fully. Many men in Perth are lucky, with most private patients seeing urologists who work alongside physiotherapists and sexual health physicians providing this vital therapy. The West boasts some of the best sexual recovery rates in the country – but some men still miss out. More education is needed – teaching men to demand better care of their sexual health and doctors to listen to them.
I’m really passionate about all this…which is why I am coming to do these talks – a corporate lunch and then in the evening, a Q&A session with a panel of experts. Lots of fun, entertainment and important information. Tickets are selling fast – book now to avoid disappointment.
Bettina Arndt is speaking on sex after prostate cancer at two events in Perth on Thursday February 28. Information – www.trybooking.com “Down Under with Bettina Arndt.”
Hints for a happy sex life after prostate cancer treatment
· Choose your urologist carefully, seeking one who is conservative about when to treat. Remember it is the prostate cancer treatments which may leave you incontinent and impotent.
· Choose a doctor who seems to care about your sex life.
· Talk to your doctor about penile rehabilitation and what program is planned to restore your sexual health. This should start before prostate cancer treatment.
· Choose a doctor who works with physiotherapists to teach you pelvic floor muscles exercises to prevent long-lasting incontinence.