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When the thrill is gone

Conquest - Fall 2012

Counseling enhances a couple’s intimacy after prostate cancer treatment


By Katrina Burton

Sexual intimacy between couples can be one of the most important factors in a healthy relationship.

Leslie Schover, Ph.D.

Yet, some couples struggle to keep passion alive, especially when busy schedules and changing bodies get in the way. Add prostate cancer treatment to the mix, and the intimacy gap widens.

But there’s hope for men facing erectile dysfunction, intimacy issues and a low sex drive after prostate cancer treatment.

CAREss (Counseling About Regaining Erections and Sexual Satisfaction), a study led by Leslie Schover, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Behavioral Science, randomized 115 heterosexual prostate cancer survivors who were experiencing erectile dysfunction and their partners into three groups:

  • a wait list group that received delayed counseling
  • a face-to-face counseling group and
  • a group that received an Internet-based sexual counseling program.

The study revealed Internet-based sexual counseling and traditional sex therapy are equally effective in improving sexual outcomes for couples. The study also showed that the sex lives for couples on a waiting list for counseling did not improve.

In addition, men experienced a marked improvement in their sexual function for up to a year, and women who started out with a sexual problem improved significantly with counseling.

“The sad thing is that only a minority of men can have reliable erections and satisfying sex after treatment from prostate cancer,” Schover says. “The good news is that for couples with relatively good relationships and sexual communication, counseling can really help improve their intimacy.”

The CAREss trial, and surveys leading to its development, were funded by grants from the American Cancer Society.

Reported in the September 2011 edition of Cancer.

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