Questions and Answers about Sex and Prostate Cancer (The James)

Questions and Answers about Sex and Prostate Cancer (The James)


Men who have cancer of the prostate may have questions or concerns about the effects cancer and its treatment may have on their sexuality. This handout gives answers to some of the commonly asked questions. Sexuality is more than the act of sexual intercourse. It involves your thoughts, feelings and your spirituality. Remember that your sexuality is unique to you.

 Q: Can I pass prostate cancer on to others?

A: No, you cannot give cancer to your partner by hugging, kissing, touching, or having intercourse.

Q: If I am too tired or do not feel well enough for sex, how do I let my partner know that I still care?

A: Your cancer or the treatments may make you feel tired and you may not want to have sex. Tell your partner how you feel. You can still be close with your partner by touching, kissing, stroking, or massage. Loving words or gestures are other ways to express your feelings.

Q: Can I have an erection?

A: Depending on your treatment, you may not be able to have an erection. Any of the treatments used can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). ED is when the penis fails to become or stay erect. Nerve damage is the most frequent reason why men have ED after treatment. After radiation, this may be secondary to vascular changes. The injury or trauma to the nerves can be caused by surgery, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy or chemotherapy. Even if the nerves are saved, such as with a nerve sparing prostatectomy, you can still have some damage or injury to the nerves which may be slow to heal.

Q: Can I still have an orgasm?

A: Even if you cannot have an erection, you can still have orgasms. However, your orgasms may be dry, if you had your prostate surgically removed. This means that there will be no semen. Some men find that the orgasm is not as pleasurable as before their treatment.

Q: When will I know if I can have an erection?

A: Your doctor will talk with you about what to expect based on your treatment.

Q: Is there anything that can help me have an erection?

A: For men that have prostate cancer there are a variety of ways you can be helped to have an erection after treatment. At The James there is an Erectile Rehabilitation program with a number of treatment options available for men. Talk to your urologist about this program.

Q: Will I still want to have sex with my partner?

A: It is normal to lose interest in sex during cancer treatment. When people are being treated for cancer, other issues such as worry, depression, nausea, pain, or fatigue may cause a loss of desire. Cancer treatments that disturb the normal hormone balance can also lessen sexual desire.

Q: Is it all right for me to have sex during or after treatment?

A: This depends on your treatment. Ask your doctor when it is safe for you to have sex.

If sex is uncomfortable, talk with your doctor or nurse about ways to make it more comfortable. You may need to try different positions or take a nap before sex. Include your partner in these discussions and talk openly about your concerns.

If you have other questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or a member of your health care team. They may refer you to our Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program, with our Cancer Supportive Care Team, which includes a fellowship-trained doctor and other health care experts.



© July 31, 2020. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or health care team if you have any questions about your care.