Partner-Inclusive Interventions May Help Recover Sexual Intimacy After Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer survivors are encouraged to include their partners in interventions to improve sexual function after treatment — and, as study results show, it is better to have these conversations with providers sooner rather than later.

Pre-treatment education and post-treatment support for men and their partners are key to returning to sexual activity after prostate cancer, according to recent research.

In an interview with CURE®, Daniela Wittman, a clinical associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, discussed study findings that showed that an online program for post-prostate cancer sexual recovery can help survivors and their partners better their sexual function, even after undergoing treatments that may have caused sexual issues.

Prostate cancer surgery and radiation can cause erectile dysfunction, while androgen-deprivation therapy can also lead to a lack of sexual desire. These issues are important for patients and their partners to discuss with their health care team, as sexual issues can severely impact quality of life.

Wittman and her team found that when the patients’ partner was involved, they were more likely to use sexual aids, such as the online program. However, timing can play a crucial role, too, especially when it comes to intimacy between partners.

“If you educate them before treatment and support them after treatment, they return to sexual activity faster. So they don’t lose that connection for a long time,” Wittman said. “The longer you go without it, the harder it is to come back to it.”


We already know that when partners are involved, men are more likely to use sexual aids. That's one of the things that research has shown us.

We also know that paying attention to the partners is important. And what our research (shows) is that if you support men and their partners, if you educate them before treatment, and support them after treatment, they return to sexual activity faster, so they don't lose that connection for a long time. Because the longer you go without it, the harder it is to come back to it. And potentially, the more barriers you have to overcome to (engage in sexual activity). So that's what our contribution is (to this field of research) — early return to sexual activity through both penetrative sex which means intercourse or annual intercourse, and non-penetrative sex, which could be any form of sexual stimulation that doesn't involve penetration.

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