Surgery successful, but the sex needs help: prostate cancer

LIMP, shrimp, wet and dry. That's how one patient sums up his post-prostate cancer surgery state.

Limp because he could no longer get an erection, shrimp because his penis had shrunk a couple of centimetres, wet because he was incontinent and dry because he couldn't ejaculate any more.

Every year in Australia about 20,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the second most common cancer after skin cancer. Survival rates are high, about 95 per cent in cases where it's caught early and is still localised. But while treatment is often effective, it nearly always leaves scars, even in best-case scenarios.

"While we're able to cure a lot of men with early prostate cancer, it comes at a price," says doctor Phillip Katelaris, a consultant urologist and director of the Prostate Cancer Rehabilitation Centre in Sydney. That cost comes in the form of anxiety and depression, incontinence or lack of bladder control, and sexual problems, especially erectile dysfunction. Problems with incontinence and sexual function can lead to embarrassment, social isolation and relationship problems, which in turn feed into depression and anxiety.

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