New guidelines on anal sex for prostate cancer patients

Newly formed recommendations by UK doctors and surgeons are thought to be the world’s first clinical guidance on anal sex for patients diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.

The recommendations are aimed at gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer, and the guidelines were based on the consensus opinion of 15 clinical oncologists and 11 urological surgeons, recruited with help from The Royal College of Radiologists, The British Association of Urological Surgeons, the British Uro-oncology Group, Prostate Cancer UK and the Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists.

Their expert findings recommend that they should abstain from receiving anal sex for a period of time before, during, and after certain tests and cancer treatments.

“Men are normally advised to resume sexual activity soon after prostate cancer treatments in order to help preserve their erectile function,” said Guideline coordinator Sean Ralph of the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Wirral.

“However, the increased likelihood of participating in anal sex means that some groups of patients – gay and bisexual men in particular – have different risks, such as the possibility of anal sex causing physical damage after a prostate operation or radiotherapy”.

The guidelines were not only for patients but were also a set of recommendations aimed at clinicians who often avoid and rarely ask men about their sexual habits.

“We found that most oncologists and surgeons don’t ask patients about their sexual orientation or sexual practices, which means some men won’t get the appropriate advice and support they need to continue having a safe and fulfilling sex life,” illustrated Ralph.

The recommendations also warn of possible risks to sexual partners from exposure to radiation, with guidelines for men being tested or treated for prostate cancer to leave suitable time gaps from receiving anal sex to avoid internal injuries and incorrect test results.

“This will not just benefit patient care in the UK, but as the first guidance of its kind in the world, it will inevitably have an impact across the cancer community globally,” commented UKIO Vice-President Dr John Burton of the Edinburgh Cancer Centre.

More generally, this work is about not making assumptions but instead listening to the patient and providing them with advice appropriate to their situation; this is something we need to remember with every patient”.
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