Cancer and love: How relationships, sexuality and the desire to have children can succeed despite treatment

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at the Cancer School of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Vienna. Registration:

At the Comprehensive Cancer Center of MedUni Vienna and University Hospital Vienna, the experts also work closely together across disciplines on the topic of cancer, love and sexuality. "It is important to us to remove the taboos surrounding sexuality and cancer. There are many questions and uncertainties and, above all, communication difficulties," say Julia Chiarello, who works at the Breast Cancer Center, and Philipp Schützl, who is a clinical psychologist specializing in psycho-oncology at the Department of Urology. In a lecture in the form of a "couple’s story with a change of perspective", the two will show the difficulties faced by couples in which one partner has cancer: What phases of cancer can a couple expect? What happens on the patient’s side, what happens on the partner’s side and what discrepancies are there? Changes in body image, the desire for sexuality, the desire to have children or even the end of treatment, when life should be back to normal but often isn’t, are discussed.

Sexual function and fertility as an issue in men

A common question and concern of men with non-metastatic prostate cancer is whether an erection is still possible after surgical treatment. "Depending on whether nerve-sparing removal of the prostate is possible or not, erection problems can occur, existing erectile dysfunction can be exacerbated or even lead to complete impotence," says Harun Fajkovic from the Department of Urology. On this evening, the expert will report in detail on medical, mechanical and surgical options for maintaining, supporting or restoring an erection.
Testicular cancer mostly affects young patients, and the primary concern here is fertility. The removal of the affected testicle usually has no effect on sex life or erections. Fertility is also preserved if the remaining testicle is healthy. To be on the safe side, the patient is recommended to undergo cryopreservation before the operation or before starting chemotherapy. As testicular cancer is most common in young men, regular self-examinations/palpation examinations should be carried out.

Enabling the desire to have children after therapy

"In contrast to men, women are born with a certain supply of egg cells, which are used less or used up over the course of their lives," explains Julian Marschalek, Head of the Outpatient Clinic for Fertility Protection at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In women with cancer, the necessary therapies (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy) can lead to impaired fertility and hormonal function of the ovaries or even premature loss of ovarian function. "Fertility protection should therefore be considered before any planned treatment," the expert recommends. Depending on the type of cancer and treatment, the options here range from "downregulation", i.e. keeping the ovaries inactive, to cryopreservation of unfertilized eggs or embryos and ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OTC), in which parts of the ovary are surgically removed and then frozen in small pieces so that they can be transplanted back once the cancer has been overcome, thus enabling ovarian function to be resumed.
Since oncological therapy usually has to be started quickly after a cancer diagnosis, there is a great deal of time pressure here. At the Comprehensive Cancer Center of MedUni Vienna and University Hospital Vienna, the therapeutic options are discussed with the woman during a detailed consultation.

Cancer School CCC Vienna: Krebs und Liebe (Cancer and Love)

Tuesday, December 5, 2023, 5 p.m.
Medical University of Vienna, Art Nouveau Lecture Hall, Building 88, Spitalgasse 23, 1090 Vienna
Registration:, The event (free of charge) takes place hybrid. Language: German.