A podcast introducing you to “Living and Loving After Prostate Cancer” using evidence-based, integrative mind-body medicine.
If you enjoy ACEF’s content, please make a donation now by clicking the “Shopping Cart ‘Buy’ Button” in the image above to make a tax deductible donation to ACEF. Feel free to share content freely. Thank you for your support.
Introduction to Living and Loving After Prostate Cancer
Survivors of prostate cancer often struggle to regain their former quality of life. Intimacy and sexual connection with a partner can be a significant obstacle in this and one that health care providers often overlook.
While medications and devices exist to help with mechanical sexual functions, these methods do not address the underlying psychological and emotional stress that results from and perpetuates the negative impact of prostate cancer on intimacy and sexuality.
This podcast is a prequel to a seminar facilitated by Werner Absenger, PhD, MSc and myself, Alexzandria Baker, PhD, MSc. The podcast will introduce you to the topic of “Living and Loving After Prostate Cancer.”
Dr. Werner and I will talk about evidence-based integrative stress management modalities and targeted education around themes of intimacy and sexuality and how couples dealing with prostate cancer can rediscover loving ground.
During our in-person “Living and Loving after Prostate Cancer” seminars, we’ll teach you and your partner communication techniques that might help you increase positive sexual adjustment and coping skills, and improve couples’ supportive communication around reestablishing intimacy.
Our next seminar is at Johnson Family Cancer Center in Muskegon on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm.
Is there Scientific Evidence to “Living and Loving after Prostate Cancer?”
Studies have shown that, while cancer survivors in general use Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) techniques, products, and providers more than the general population, male cancer survivors are far less likely to take advantage of these approaches than female cancer survivors (Kristoffersen, Norheim, & Fønnebø, 2013).
In the US, about 40% of cancer survivors use some CAM technique, product or provider. Of these, 45% are women and 33% are men. In Canada and Norway the percentage of men using a CAM approach is closer to 29-31%; however, as with most studies about CAM, there is some natural bias due to how CAM is defined and what techniques are included.
Current medical thought approaches erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer with a prescription for Viagra™ (Ilic, Hindson, Duchesne, & Millar, 2013) or something like the “little blue pill.” It is unfortunate that male sexuality is so often reduced to penile functioning.
Sometimes medical providers need to be reminded that there is a whole man behind that penis. Post-prostate cancer sexual dysfunction can be psycho-socially and emotionally damaging to a man, not just biologically. It can impact a man’s confidence, body image, and comfort with intimacy, turning what began as a sexual side effect into a true relationship killer.
How can Integrative Medicine Help?
Sexual side effects, or fear of such side effects, during and after prostate cancer treatment can be very stressful. This stress response then forms a feedback loop, which can further decrease sexual desire and function (Baker & Absenger, 2013).
Stress-reduction techniques such as breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation and progressive relaxation can all help bring this response under control.
One study demonstrated that Relaxation Response Therapy (RRT) and Reiki improved emotional well-being and reduced anxiety in prostate cancer survivors (Beard et al., 2011). In many cases of non-physiological erectile concerns, just the “simple” practice of being present and in-the-moment can make a huge difference.
While these techniques may not miraculously reverse the sexual effects of a radical prostatectomy, they may clear the way for reconnecting with one’s body and ease a healthy restructuring of one’s sexual identity.
Another reason in preparing the way for sexual healing after prostate cancer is addressing the immediate adverse effects of treatment. For example, acupuncture has shown promise in reducing the hot flashes associated with androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT).
Traditional Chinese Medicine, green tea, and vitamin therapy (Selenium and Vitamin E among others) are also being examined for their potential in supporting prostate cancer recovery and alleviating some of the effects of chemotherapy and radiation (Phillippou, Hadipavlou, Khan, & Rane, 2013).
Exercise, self-help groups, prayer, spiritual healing and homeopathy have also been used for this purpose (Diefenbach et al., 2003).
Words of Caution
Complementary & Alternative Medicine is often presented as harmless with studies citing very few if any side effects. It is important to realize that any effective treatment also has the potential to cause negative reactions.
Herbal remedies, for example, may have severe interactions with other treatments and medications prescribed by your oncologist.
Almost half of CAM users do not tell their primary care providers or specialists about their use of these alternative treatments, and this is very dangerous, perhaps even life-threatening (Diefenbach et al., 2003).
Please, talk to your doctor before beginning any CAM treatment or practice no matter how safe or irrelevant it might seem.
This is a very broad topic, and I have only given a brief introduction. In the future we’ll address specific CAM techniques men can use for sexual healing after prostate cancer in more detail.
Until then, please send us your questions on this topic or any other related to sexual wellness during and after cancer treatment.
Will we see You for February’s Educational Cancer Seminar at JFCC?
For a list of upcoming cancer seminars at Johnson Family Cancer Center click here.
Be a Best Friend: Share Living and Loving after Prostate Cancer
Do you know someone who can benefit from the educational cancer seminar series? Of course you do! Take some time now to share this article on Twitter or Facebook! Hint: The share buttons below make it super easy to keep your friends in the loop.
Show Notes and Resources
For more information on sexual wellness for men after prostate cancer, please visit:
ACA: Sex and Men With Cancer — Overview (this is the resource from the American Cancer Society Alex mentioned during the show).
Baker, A., & Absenger, W. (n.d). Sexual Wellness Enhancement and Enrichment Training (SWEET): A hypothetical group model for addressing sexual health and wellbeing. Sexual And Relationship Therapy, 28(1-2), 48-62. doi: 10.1080/14681994.2013.784000
Beard, C., Stason, W. B., Qian, W., Manola, J., Dean-Clower, E., Dusek, J. A., & … Benson, H. (2011). Effects of complementary therapies on clinical outcomes in patients being treated with radiation therapy for prostate cancer. Cancer (0008543X), 117(1), 96-102. doi:10.10021cncr.25291
Diefenbach, M., Hamrick, N., Uzzo, R., Pollack, A., Horwitz, E., Greenberg, R., & Engstrom, P. (2003). Clinical, demographic and psychosocial correlates of complementary and alternative medicine use by men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer. The Journal Of Urology, 170(1), 166-169.
Ilic, D., Hindson, B., Duchesne, G., & Millar, J. (2013). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of nightly sildenafil citrate to preserve erectile function after radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Journal Of Medical Imaging & Radiation Oncology, 57(1), 81-88. doi:10.1111/j.1754-9485.2012.02461.x
Kristoffersen, A. E., Norheim, A. J., & Fønnebø, V. M. (2013). Complementary and alternative medicine use among Norwegian cancer survivors: Gender-specific prevalence and associations for use. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (Ecam), 1-10. doi: 10.1155/2013/318781
Philippou, Y., Hadjipavlou, M., Khan, S., & Rane, A. (2013). Complementary and alternative medicine ( CAM) in prostate and bladder cancer. BJU International, 112(8), 1073-1079. doi:10.1111/bju.12062