Prostate cancer gets men thinking about manliness
Men with prostate cancer tend to reflect on masculinity and what it means to be a man, specifically when their sex lives and bodies change due to treatment of the disease, concludes a recent study in Norway.
Researchers did in-depth interviews with 13 men aged 52 to 68 and nine spouses aged 52-68. The spouses were not married to any of the 13 men in the study to minimize the danger of revealing sensitive information. This allowed the spouses to speak freely without worry.
During the study, they found that men thought the health system focused too much on impotence as a possible side effect. As they were just diagnosed with prostate cancer and having to deal with a potentially life-threatening disease, they said they are not as interested in hearing advice about Viagra and sex with their partners. The researchers recommended that less focus should be paid to their ability to get an erection.
They also found that older men were able to accept that their sex lives had changed and that they felt it was better to extend their lives with treatment rather than have a functioning penis. Sexuality was more important for younger men, specifically those who were around 60 years old.
Men who were taking hormones to decrease the production of testosterone to extend their lives saw changes in their bodies that are similar to women going through menopause. Most of these men were able to figure out a way to adjust to these changes. Other men suffered from incontinence, but none admitted to having to wear diapers. However, the spouses who were interviewed talked about their husbands having to wear diapers, and that they have to make light of the situation to make it less embarrassing.
The spouses who were interviewed also admitted that it was sad that their sex lives had ended sooner than they wanted, and that it can have a negative impact on the relationship. However, they would not tell this to their husbands in order to protect their masculinity. In some cases, women said the disease brought them closer together.
Researchers conclude that prostate cancer needs to be talked about openly without the stigma associated with it.