Improving sexual health for men with prostate cancer

Richard Hamel remembers the feeling of shock when at the age of 58, he found out he had prostate cancer. After his diagnosis, he met with an oncologist to talk about available treatments, and Richard ultimately decided to have surgery to remove his prostate.

Following prostate cancer surgery, two major side effects can be changes in bladder control and sexual function. Roughly 7 in 10 men will continue to experience erectile dysfunction 18 months after surgery, making it one of the biggest challenges facing men and their partners after prostate cancer treatment.

With a Quality of Life Research Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), Dr Andrew Matthew studied a new intervention for prostate cancer survivors that combines medical, psychological and social strategies to improve sexual health, psychological wellbeing and quality of life.

This integrated approach, offered by Dr Matthew and a team of healthcare professionals through the Prostate Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic (PCRC) at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, includes educating men about how to use medications and devices to enhance sexual function and counseling them to manage expectations, achieve more open communication and greater intimacy.

After a successful surgery, Richard and his wife Cheri began taking part in the rehabilitation program at the PCRC and continue to do so today.

“I think Dr Matthew’s research is very valuable because when you undergo a procedure like this that affects your life in a significant way, it’s really important to understand not only the physiological but also the psychological factors of the recovery,” says Richard. “Without research, and funders like CCS, my cancer journey would have been different.”

Dr Matthew has also developed an online sexual health program for men with prostate cancer. Now, he is using his expertise to create a rehabilitation program to address the sexual health challenges faced by both male and female patients with different types of cancer.

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