Online Couples Sexual Health Support Program May Help with Sexual Recovery After Prostate Cancer Treatment

An online sexual recovery program after prostate cancer treatment could help men and their partners improve their sexual health despite dysfunction, according to a recent study.

The results of this study, published in Cancer, stress the importance of focusing on sexual health as part of their quality of life after undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

“Sexual health is part of overall health, and people often feel unsure of whether it is okay to seek help with sexual problems after cancer treatment,” said Daniela Wittman, professor. associate professor of clinical urology and clinical assistant professor of social work at the University. from Michigan to Ann Arbor, in an interview with CURE®. “A lot of times people will say, ‘(My cancer team) has tried to help me before and saved my life, so it’s extra and I’m not allowed to ask about it.’ Everyone has the right to have a sex life if they want to have it.

Wittmann added that it was important that this study be conducted based on the results of previous research.

“Over the past 20 years, we have conducted research to try to understand the experience of prostate cancer survivors with their treatment and its impact on quality of life,” she said. declared. “What we have learned is that for many patients, especially if they have localized prostate cancer, but even those who have advanced prostate cancer, they are treated, they can often get rid of them. cancer and survive for a long time.But the treatment itself has a pretty big impact on their long-term quality of life, and the most long-term side effect is sexual dysfunction.

To assess the potential effectiveness of an online program for post-treatment recovery from sexual intimacy, Wittmann and her team assigned 142 couples to either the online program (60 couples) or a control group (82 couples). . It should be noted that the patients were treated with radiotherapy, surgery or combined radiotherapy and androgen deprivation therapy.

Couples assigned to the online program participated in a six-module program that incorporated videos, educational content and suggested activities. Those assigned to the control group were directed to a page on the American Cancer Society’s website on sexuality after cancer. Couples in both groups completed questionnaires at the start of the study, three months and six months after treatment, focused on their progress throughout their assigned program.

Read more: Lost Love: The Effects Of Cancer On Marriage And Relationships

At six months, 105 patients and 87 partners responded to the survey. The responses demonstrated that there was no difference between the intervention groups or the control group in sexual life satisfaction six months after treatment. In contrast, at three months, patients and their partners assigned to the online program reported that they were more engaged in sexual activity than those assigned to content on the American Cancer Society website.

“We already know that when partners are involved, men are more likely to use sexual aids,” Wittmann explained. “This is one of the things the research has shown us. We also know that being attentive to partners is important. And what our research adds is that if you support men and their partners, educate them before treatment and support them after treatment, they return to sexual activity faster. They don’t lose that connection for a long time because the longer you go without it, the harder it is to get back to it and, potentially, the more obstacles you have to overcome to get there.

For couples who participated in the online program, over 73% of participants reported moderate or high satisfaction with the content of the module, and over 85% would recommend the program to other couples.

While the results of this study highlight how an online program can aid sexual recovery after treatment for prostate cancer, more research is needed in this area.

“We still need to better understand how to provide timely assistance,” said Wittmann. “What we found in our study is that it is possible that patients and partners have somewhat different motivations in the recovery process that we should be examining on an ongoing basis. And instead of just offering an intervention, maybe we should have subsets of things that we can offer based on how we’re continually evaluating what they (are) interested in, what they can tolerate and what motivates them the most to participate.

In the meantime, Wittmann advised men to feel comfortable talking about their sexual health, especially after treatment.

What I would say to men is you might think this is an uncomfortable situation, but if you talk to a professional who is going to make you feel comfortable even if you talk to other men and talk about it, you The more you talk about it, the more help and support you will find for the problems you are facing.

Wittmann added that there are several ways to help men in this area, especially if sexual function has been compromised by treatment.

“There are professionals who can help them, and they should feel free to ask their oncologist about this,” she said. “If the oncologist can’t help them – that’s not their expertise and we shouldn’t expect oncologists to be sex therapists – they should be able to direct them to resources and people who can. really help them. “

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