The Effects Of Penile Cancer On Your Sex Life: What You Need To Know
Penile cancer is a rare form of the disease, accounting for less than 1 percent of all cancers in men in the United States. Nonetheless, even though a penile cancer diagnosis is rare, the condition can have a significant impact on your life during and after treatment, especially when it comes to sex. Find out how penile cancer affects your body, and understand more about the effects this may have on your sex life.
The importance of early diagnosis
Early diagnosis of the condition improves the chances of successful treatment, but some men overlook or ignore symptoms that could indicate they have the disease. For example, unusual warts, blisters, sores and abnormal patches of skin are more likely signs of a less serious condition, but these symptoms are also early indicators of penile cancer.
With an early diagnosis, a doctor can often treat the problem without permanent damage to the penis. However, a later diagnosis may mean that you have to undergo surgery to remove part or all of the penis. Clearly, this type of surgery can have a serious long-term effect on your sex life.
The impact of different treatment methods
According to the severity and position of the cancer, your doctor may recommend different types of treatment. Each method has different implications.
A wide local excision is a relatively simple procedure where a surgeon removes the cancer along with a small border of healthy tissue to lower the risk that the problem will come back. In most cases, your penis will have normal function after this surgery, with minor cosmetic differences.
A penectomy involves the full or partial removal of the penis, which is only necessary in severe cases. During a partial penectomy, the surgeon will normally only remove the end of the penis, leaving enough of the shaft for you to urinate normally. A total penectomy removes the shaft and the root of the penis.
Reconstructive surgery is sometimes possible after a partial or complete penectomy. This type of surgery is complex and time-consuming, and the surgeon who carries out the penectomy will not do the reconstructive work. This procedure is not common, and while most men are able to urinate normally after the work, it may still not become possible to have penetrative sex again. What's more, the work can take place over several months, with a lengthy recovery period.
Sex after radiation therapy
Some men prefer not to have surgery to treat penile cancer, due to the impact this work may have on their body. Radiation therapy is an alternative treatment method that can avoid surgery. Some oncologists will also recommend radiation therapy to relieve symptoms or to treat the lymph nodes where there is a high risk of the cancer returning.
Radiation therapy can temporarily affect your body. Many men are unable to get or maintain an erection due to the treatment, and the nerves around the penis sometimes temporarily lose function. Radiation therapy can also sometimes thicken tissue in the penis, which may make it harder to get an erection. That aside, most symptoms subside after the treatment, allowing you to have a normal sex life again.
The emotional impact
Any effect on your sex life can affect your relationship with your partner. Even where treatment is successful, the treatment process is stressful and may lead to anxiety that makes it hard for you to successfully enjoy sex again. You should always ask for support. While nurses and doctors can help you with your physical symptoms, you may need a psychologist or counselor to work through the emotional challenges.
Cancer support groups in your area can put you in touch with people you may want to meet and talk to. You're likely to worry that the cancer will return, and this uncertainty can cause serious anxiety. A support group can offer you resources that may help you come to terms with life after cancer treatment.
Penile cancer is a rare but serious disease that can have devastating effects. Talk to your doctor or oncologist for more information, or contact a local support group for further advice.