The one health problem men refuse to talk about
BEING diagnosed with prostate cancer is bad enough, but for a lot of men, there are hidden side effects.
Research shows one-third of all men diagnosed with prostate cancer have unmet sexuality and sexual health needs following treatment, with rates of erectile dysfunction in prostate cancer survivors 10 to 15 times higher than their age-matched peers without cancer.
Griffith University Professor Suzanne Chambers said treatments for prostate cancer had negative effects on men's sexual functioning.
"Our online study is the first of its kind to assess masculinity, concerns about sexual health and what contributes to a man's decision to seek support for their sexual concerns," Prof Chambers said.
"Many men are reluctant to get help for their sexual concerns, including erectile dysfunction, and when they do, men don't tend to continue with treatment."
Len Lamprecht is one man who knows all about the impacts of prostate cancer and its after-effects, following his diagnosis and treatment in 2002.
Speaking candidly, Mr Lamprecht, who is also convenor of the Ipswich Prostate Cancer Support Group, said prostate cancer's impact on sexual activity caused 'frustration'.
"You had something, but you don't have it now," Mr Lamprecht said.
Fear of erectile dysfunction and the Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) would often stop men from being checked for prostate cancer.
"Erectile dysfunction is a big thing, along with the DRE, for younger blokes, right in the middle of their reproductive life, they can't perform."
Margaret Lamprecht said a lot of the time, she kept herself busy as an alternative.
"I worked a lot harder, read a lot of books, did jigsaws and joined groups, so when you went to bed, you were tired and just wanted to sleep," Mrs Lamprecht said.
"It was, and still is, a frustration, there is not much you can do, it does play on your mind."
After a previous prostate treatment, Mrs Lamprecht said the couple had experienced 'some difficulties', but they were 'resolved'.
"If Len and I didn't care for each other it would have been a lot more difficult for us this time."
Mr Lamprecht said men would not talk to each other about prostate cancer, leading to situations where good friends, and even siblings, could be suffering from the disease, but will not mention it.
"Blokes living two doors apart won't talk to each other about it, even brothers won't tell each other."
Mrs Lamprecht said the earlier prostate cancer was diagnosed, the greater the chance for a full recovery, with no loss of erectile function.
With the controlling nerves often injured during the treatment phase, Mr Lamprecht said this will cause erectile dysfunction.
"The nerves go into shock during treatment, without the nerves, you don't get an erection.
"If the nerves do not recover soon after treatment, the effect can be permanent."
Mr Lamprecht said specialists encouraged men to get erections after treatment, to help with their long term recovery.
"It wasn't so much about using it, they just encouraged you to get one, the doctor wanted you to get at least six per week."
Prof Chambers said men aged 18 or over, from all around the world, were being asked to participate in the study, to help researchers understand men's concerns about their health after prostate cancer.
"The results will provide new information about men's decisions to seek help for impacts on their sexual function, satisfaction, and quality of life after prostate cancer treatment.
"From here, we can tailor follow-up treatment, support and resources to help men address their sexual concerns."
Around 4000 Queensland men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and about 640 men die from the disease.
Research shows up to 85 per cent of men experience erectile dysfunction up to 17 years after treatment, but few seek help to cope.
The Men and Sexual Health Prostate Cancer Study is a joint Cancer Council Queensland and Griffith University project.
Men aged over 18, who have started or received prostate cancer treatment can take part in the survey menandprostatecancer.org
Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift encouraged anyone with any questions about prostate cancer support to call Cancer Council on 13 11 20.