It’s no secret that cancer treatment can be taxing on your body, your psyche and your family. But one issue that seems to be a secret is what cancer does to your sex life.
Let’s be frank: Lasting effects from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can impact ability to have sex or even desire a sexual relationship. Addressing these effects and restoring sexual health is the focus of a new clinic at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center specifically for men.
Erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, hormonal problems and other side effects of cancer treatment can make intimacy difficult. “These side effects don’t have to become permanent,” says urologist Ahmed Aly Hussein Aly, MD, who runs the Men’s Sexual Health Clinic. “We can manage and improve them and help minimize the cost of cure from cancer.”
Cancers that affect the genitourinary tract, such as prostate and bladder cancers, pose a higher risk to sexual health. Surgery to remove the prostate or bladder can cause erectile or urinary dysfunction. However, sexual side effects can result from other cancer treatments, too. For example, long-term chemotherapy can cause neuropathy of the nerves that control the bladder, leading to neurogenic bladder dysfunction. Radiation to the brain can lead to hormone changes that cause hypogonadism, resulting in lower testosterone levels.
As a urologist and oncologist, Dr. Aly is well qualified to diagnose and treat sexual side effects that men face. He specializes in the treatment of cancers affecting the urinary tract and has special interest in managing side effects of such treatments, specifically the effects on urinary and sexual function.
Conditions we treat
The most common sexual side effects that men face as a result of their cancer or its treatment include:
- Problems with erections or ejaculation
- Low testosterone levels, which can produce symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, cognitive issues and decreased sexual drive
- Urinary leakage, or difficulty with urination
- Neurogenic bladder, a condition caused by neuropathy of the nerves that control the bladder. This can lead to a wide spectrum of symptoms including inability to urinate, loss of bladder sensation, irritative voiding and increased urinary frequency.
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What to expect from your appointment
Your first appointment includes a physical exam and honest discussion with Dr. Aly about your symptoms. “We have many options that we can consider,” says Dr. Aly. “These range from lifestyle modifications, pelvic muscle training and medications to surgery for an artificial urinary sphincter or a penile implant.” Depending on your treatment, many follow-up visits could be conducted virtually, if preferred.