Penile cancer

Sexual concerns

Penile cancer

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Sexual concerns are common after cancer diagnosis and treatment. These can include physical changes, feeling less desirable or losing interest in sex.

If you have any of these problems, there are services that can help.

Sexual concerns when you have cancer

There are several things related to cancer diagnosis and treatment that can cause sexual concerns.

These include:

  • physical changes
  • emotional changes
  • problems with intimacy
  • lower libido
  • changes to body image
  • fertility problems.

Penile cancer and sexual concerns

Having penile cancer does not mean the end of your sex life. The stage of penile cancer and the treatment you receive, will influence the effect on your sex life.

If disease is found and treated early, and only involves surgery to the skin, the impact on sex life can be minimal.

For men with more advanced disease, that requires more extensive surgery, there will initially be swelling and discomfort. After the wound has healed there may be scarring, and the penis may be shorter. If radiotherapy is needed, this can lead to skin changes and reduction in sensation.

These changes can alter the appearance and functioning of the penis, and this can be embarrassing and distressing.

  • After localised surgery, you may still be able to have an erection and penetrative sex.
  • A glansectomy or partial penectomy can cause shortening of the penis but erection and orgasm are still possible in some men.  
  • After a total penectomy, you won’t be able to have an erection or penetrative sexual intercourse. However, there are ways to of gaining sexual pleasure without penetration.
  • Fatigue caused by treatments such are radiotherapy or chemotherapy can lead to a reduction in libido (sex drive) which is temporary.

If you are having problems with penetrative sex, you can still enjoy an intimate relationship. Being intimate with someone involves being physically and emotionally close to them. It is possible to have an intimate relationship without penetration.

Talking to your partner so they can understand the changes to your body is important.

You can also talk to your doctor about your sexual concerns and ask to be referred to councillor or sex therapist. 

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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