Although treatments for testicular cancer are highly effective, they do have some sexual side effects that every man with this condition should know about. In many cases, treatment for testicular cancer involves removing the diseased testicle (or both testicles if the cancer has spread to both). While the removal of a testicle can be a depressing experience that decreases a man's sex drive, men who still have one remaining testicle can still produce sperm and father children.
Any surgery that changes your body, especially your sex organs, is sure to have an effect on your body image. However, understanding what you are and aren't capable of doing after the surgery can help you get through the anxiety, fear and frustration so you recover and return to having a normal, fully functional sex life.
In this article, we will outline how each treatment option affects your sex life and then provide you with tips and tools for dealing with each sexual side effect of testicular cancer.
If cancerous growths affect both of your testicles or you have already had one testicle removed and cancer develops in the remaining testicle, you will need to have both testicles removed. While men with one remaining testicle can still produce sperm and normal levels of testosterone, those who have had both testicles removed are no longer able to produce either.
Dealing with the loss of sperm production is the easiest sexual side effect that men who have both testicles removed have to deal with. Before the procedure, talk to your doctor about saving some of your sperm in a sperm bank for future use.
To maintain healthy levels of testosterone, these men will need to undergo hormone replacement therapy that will keep them physically healthy. Low levels of testosterone cause men to feel fatigued, experience mood swings and possibly suffer from depression. Similarly, testosterone hormone therapy works to combat sexual side effects, namely the reduced sex drive and absence of ejaculation.
Although some testosterone replacement therapies revolve around taking pills, researchers have found that these hormones in pill form aren't absorbed into the body as effectively as testosterone gels, patches and injections (administered every two to three weeks).
The retroperitoneal lymph node dissection is a surgical procedure used to treat some forms of testicular cancer. In this procedure, surgeons remove malignant lymph nodes from the region behind the abdomen. Because this procedure is extremely invasive, it is rarely done. However, if cancer has spread to these lymph nodes, you may have to undergo a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection.
Along with loss of sex drive, patients who have had this procedure may experience retrograde ejaculation, meaning that they ejaculate backwards so that the semen goes into the bladder rather than coming out of the penis.
Because retrograde ejaculation isn't a serious sexual side effect, it isn't treated in most cases. While men who suffer from retrograde ejaculation are generally infertile and experience different orgasmic sensations (namely because they have dry orgasms), they are in no way hindered from achieving orgasm. In some cases, doctors may prescribe certain medications that are effective in restoring normal ejaculatory functioning in about 40 percent of men.
One of the most important things to remember as you are going through the treatment process for testicular cancer is that surgery, radiation and chemotherapy won't permanently take away your ability to have and enjoy sex.
Although your emotional state may decrease your sex drive and your changing physical state can hinder you from having sex for a period of time, you can regain normal sexual functioning, although possibly without ejaculation, after you have recovered from surgery and your chemotherapy and radiation treatments have stopped.
As you are going through treatment, remember to talk to your doctor, partner and other testicular cancer patients for support and comfort. These people are here for you and can help you understand and cope with the sexual side effects of testicular cancer.
Aetna Health (2007). Retrograde Ejaculation. Retrieved June 22, 2007 from: http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WS/9339/10523.html.
Testicular Cancer Information
information on health-related topics, not medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment recommendations. Please consult your physician if you have questions