How a Prostatectomy Can Affect Your Relationship

Cancer is a serious disease that can affect almost every part of the human body. 

Amongst the male population, cancer of the prostate remains a common concern. 

Each year, more than 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

Numerous treatments have been introduced for men with prostate cancer.

In some cases, men may choose a radical prostatectomy to help eradicate the disease and prevent cancer from returning. 

The effects of prostatectomy can extend to a man’s relationship with his partner, but the severity of the impact depends on certain factors. 

We look at the effects of prostatectomy on a relationship and what men can do to improve the bond they have with a partner. 

What is a Prostatectomy?

When a male patient undergoes a radical prostatectomy procedure, it means their prostate gland will be removed. There are several techniques that surgeons utilize to assist with the removal of the prostate gland. 

The extent of the procedure depends on the current state of prostate cancer. When the gland is removed, the surgeon may also remove the seminal vesicles that are attached to it during the prostate cancer treatment procedure.

If there is a risk that cancer has spread to lymph nodes that are located in a close perimeter to the prostate, they may also be removed during the surgery. 

The treatment is generally offered to men with localized prostate cancer and in cases where other measures did not yield effective results. 

Short And Long Term Effects Of a Prostatectomy

Once the prostate is removed, there are certain things that a man should realize. This include both short and long-term effects that the radical prostatectomy will yield. 

This section will look at what men should expect during both the short and the long term following the procedure. 

Short Term Effects

It is important to understand that men will generally experience both physiological side-effects and mental effects when they undergo radical prostatectomy. Some of these effects will be temporary, but some may linger on for a more extended period. 

Studies show that depression and similar mental adverse effects tend to be relatively common in men after undergoing a radical prostatectomy procedure. Several physiological factors can further contribute to the development of depressive symptoms. 

Research also shows that the risk of depression increases four-fold among men who underwent a prostatectomy procedure compared to healthy men who did not need this type of surgery. 

In addition to the stress that comes from the surgery and the idea of having the prostate removed, physical side-effects caused by the procedure may also impact the individual’s mental state. 

In the short term, many men will experience problems with their sexual function. Radical prostatectomy removes the prostate, along with seminal vesicles, which means the man will no longer be able to send sperm through his urethra. 

The surgery often causes men to lose their ability to gain or hold an erection for an appropriate time to have sexual intercourse. When erectile dysfunction develops, men further feel depressed. Sexual dysfunction is sometimes a temporary side-effect. 

Apart from these, men may also develop bowel dysfunction after the surgery. This may result in rectal leakage and the inability to prevent stool from moving freely at some times. 

Urinary dysfunction is also a common issue in the short term. It can result in leakage from the urethra as well. 

Long Terms Effects

While there are several cases where men effectively recover after radical prostatectomy, some men continue to experience side effects long-term. 

In most cases where side-effects remain present, this would usually be related to urinary incontinence. This means the man is unable to control their bladder efficiently. 

When the man has urinary incontinence, they may notice urine leaks from their bladder at unexpected times. 

Erectile dysfunction also remains a common complication, sometimes lingering on for months or even years following the prostatectomy procedure. This can cause serious problems with the man’s sexual function. 

Studies indicate that erectile dysfunction can also occur with other types of surgical procedures used to treat prostate cancer. 

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How a Prostatectomy Can Affect Your Relationship

The removal of a prostate gland through radical prostatectomy puts a lot of stress on a relationship too. It is not the stress of the procedure itself, but also the consequences that occur following the surgery. 

The onset of depression, a common effect that comes after radical prostatectomy, is one of the initial factors that can have an adverse effect on a relationship. 

When the patient becomes depressed, this can cause them to disengage from the relationship, oftentimes making the partner feel pushed away. 

It is also important to note that erectile dysfunction can be another serious issue in a relationship. 

One study explains that erectile dysfunction is known for causing damage to a relationship. In some cases, the condition can even cause problems in serious and long-term relationships. 

The condition can result in excessive stress among both partners in some relationships. When a man finds difficulties getting an erection, it can also cultivate a feeling of anxiety every time they participate in sexual activities. 

Another way prostate removal can potentially affect a relationship is due to the bowel and urinary dysfunctions often experienced. 

These factors can affect both the patient and his partner. The individual may feel embarrassed about leakages and not wish to discuss this with their partner openly. 

All of these factors together can sometimes wreak havoc on a relationship that was previously considered stable. 

Tips For Improving Intimacy

The fact that prostatectomy can cause issues with relationship does not mean it will cause the relationship to end. There are ways to maintain intimacy, even after a man underwent a radical prostatectomy procedure. 

One method that has been described for men to consider following prostate surgery is penis rehab or penile rehabilitation

The main idea behind this type of rehabilitation therapy is to increase the amount of blood that is capable of reaching the penis. This would also positively impact the oxygen supply for the penis. 

These two factors play a crucial role in allowing a man to have a normal erection. While it may take some time, restoring erectile function can yield a significant positive effect in the sex life of the man, while also contributing to his relationship. 

When it comes to intimacy, men should consider implementing techniques like foreplay. This can help the man take their mind off the fact that they perhaps experienced erectile difficulties in the previous session and help them relax. 

Tips For Maintaining A Good Relationship

One of the most effective methods for maintaining a healthy and strong relationship after surgical prostate cancer treatment would be open communication. 

This is something that many relationships lack when a man has to go for a prostatectomy. Yet, it plays a major part in ensuring the two partners can efficiently understand each other’s feelings and truly be there for one another. 

Open communication should come from both sides of the relationship. The individual undergoing the procedure should be able to provide an overview of their feelings. And also ensure they listen to concerns and any specific feelings shared by their partner. 

How You Can Improve Your Sexual Health After A Prostatectomy

Some treatments have been shown useful for men after they had a prostatectomy. If the individual finds that they develop erectile problems after the surgery, they can consult with their doctor. Certain medications have shown potential in alleviating the sexual dysfunction that sometimes lingers after these surgeries. 

It is also possible to use penile stimulation strategies, which causes oxygen and blood flow to the penis to increase. These strategies can also help to yield longer-term effects and may assist in reducing the need for drugs as a way of stimulating an erection. 

Other than this, men should also not be afraid to have sex. When the man constantly finds themselves worrying about a previous session where they were not able to satisfy their partner, this will interfere with the current session. 

Instead, men should find a way to relax and avoid thinking about those times, focusing only on the current time and what is happening now. 


Radical prostatectomy may be advised when other prostate cancer options fail to provide efficient results. The effects of prostatectomy can result in sexual dysfunction and even yield problems in the patient’s relationship. 

There are certain methods that can reduce the impact that these effects have on the relationship. But it is important to note that this takes time and effort from both partners.

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  3. Weber BA, Roberts BL, Mills TL, Chumbler NR, Algood CB. Physical and emotional predictors of depression after radical prostatectomy. Am J Men’s Health. 2008 Jun.
  4. Emanu JC, Avildsen IK, Nelson CJ. Erectile dysfunction after radical prostatectomy: prevalence, medical treatments, and psychosocial interventions. Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2016 Mar.
  5. Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. Erectile Dysfunction. [Updated 2021 Aug 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:
  6. Irwin DE, Milsom I, Reilly K, Hunskaar S, Kopp Z, Herschorn S, Coyne KS, Kelleher CJ, Artibani W, Abrams P. Overactive bladder is associated with erectile dysfunction and reduced sexual quality of life in men. J Sex Med. 2008.
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