Cancer is a frightening prospect for anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race. It’s a common fear that crosses our minds whenever the smallest bump or slightest pain is felt in random areas of our bodies. Our society has developed a severe mass paranoia when it comes to cancer, and there’s a reason why. Cancer is often followed by various telltale signs, with earlier forms having possibly subtler indications. In fact, most men don’t know that erectile problems could be telling you something major and might even have connections with cancer.
Cancer and erectile dysfunction are related in more ways than one. The main causes revolve around cancer affecting the sexual organs of a patient, in which case it’s quite clear how the disease can trigger side effects to the sexual activity of an individual. There’s more than just this direct factor though.
1.Links between cancer and erectile dysfunction
Apart from cancer directly affecting sexual organs, certain types of cancers that do not affect the sexual organs might still be able to affect your sexuality. In this case, the process of having cancer and its gradual transformation on the body can alter one’s perception of his own body image. If you shave your head in preparation for chemotherapy or start losing weight, these things can make you feel less desirable and trigger feelings like exhaustion or depression – both of which could lead to a decrease in sexual desire or sexual performance.
Side effects of cancer and its treatment, such as exhaustion, discomfort, or anxiety about the treatment, may cause sexual difficulties. Depressed feelings about having cancer can also lead to a loss of libido. In addition to the physical changes you go through during recovery, emotional causes may also have sexual side effects.
Cancer can affect sexual function in both direct and indirect ways. It can influence sexual organs, affect body image indirectly, or cause fatigue or depression, all of which can affect libido. Erectile dysfunction (ED) can also be caused by cancer treatment side effects such as fatigue, pain, or anxiety about therapy. ED is described as the inability to obtain or sustain a firm enough erection for sexual intercourse, as opposed to infertility, which is defined as the inability to conceive a child. Furthermore, depressed thoughts about getting cancer may affect sexuality, resulting in a variety of signs and symptoms that can lead to ED.
This is a key concern for men’s health in Malaysia but unfortunately, it is something that men in the country seemed ashamed to talk about. It’s important for men in Malaysia to dive into this issue and find possible connections between cancer and sexual problems. Here are a few more possible scenarios.
Radiation to the pelvis has been linked to erectile dysfunction, but the reason for this is unknown. Radiation can harm nerves in the pelvic region, block blood flow to the penis, and lower testosterone levels in the body. Radiation’s side effects appear six to twelve months after treatment.
The amount of radiation you receive and how much of your pelvic region is treated determines whether you develop erectile dysfunction as a result of radiation therapy — a higher dose of radiation over a larger area of the body is more likely to cause sexual side effects.
Erectile dysfunction may be more common in men who smoke or have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes following radiation therapy. These conditions may have already caused artery damage, which the radiation may exacerbate. After radiation therapy, the amount of semen you ejaculate can decrease. You may also experience pain during ejaculation, but this normally goes away with time.
3.Nerve damage from chemotherapy
Some chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, vincristine, paclitaxel, bortezomib, and thalidomide, can cause nerve damage, especially in the hands and feet. (Peripheral neuropathy is the medical term for this.) These medications have not been shown to damage the nerve bundles that enable erection. However, some people are concerned because the medications are known to damage nerve tissue, and sexual function involves many nerves.
If your prostate cancer has spread, your doctor might remove your testicles (orchiectomy) or treat you with medications to lower the amount of the hormone testosterone in your body.
Testosterone is a fuel source for certain prostate cancers. Your doctor hopes to delay or stop the progression of your cancer by lowering your testosterone levels. Men with large prostate cancers can be given hormone therapy before surgery to shrink the prostate and make it easier to remove.
Hormone therapy is the most common cause of libido loss, although it does not affect all. Some men experience a strong desire for sex but are unable to obtain an erection or achieve orgasm. Hormone treatment tends to have fewer sexual side effects in younger men. Hormone therapy can also cause you to ejaculate with less semen.
5.Following Stem Cell Transplantation
Graft versus host disease, which happens after allogeneic stem cell transplantation, can cause erectile dysfunction in men. This is a rare scenario, and is obviously only relevant to those who have had stem cell transplantation. However, it still is a valid way to acquire erectile problems in relation to a severe disease.
6.Compromised Immune System After Treatment
Another scenario worth mentioning is that one has already been diagnosed with cancer, and as a recovering patient, the possibility of a compromised immune system after intensive treatment could lead to various effects on the body and mind. This includes the ability to perform sexually.
Bear in mind that the immune system will not be as high as it normally is when you are receiving treatment for leukemia or lymphoma. If you have had genital herpes or warts in the past, you might be at a higher risk of developing a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or having a flare-up. The use of a condom can help to lower the risk.
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