A couple with their arms around one another.
Something not right in the downstairs department? Here’s what to do.Image by: Movember
A couple with their arms around one another.
4 July 2023

The facts about sexual health for men

5 minutes read time

Other than your intimate partner (and your doctor), there probably ain't that many people who know all the ins and outs of what's going on with your downstairs equipment.

That's completely understandable. Most social conversations tend not to be about men's sexual health. Sports, politics, hobbies and the weather, curiously enough, are more popular.

So where do you start if something doesn't feel right in the ol' downstairs department? Fear not fellas, here are the facts and answers about common sexual health problems in men.

What are the most common sexually transmitted diseases in men?

Sexually transmitted infections (also called sexually transmitted diseases, often shortened to STIs or STDs) are infections passed on through sexual intercourse. Here are the most common:

  • Chlamydia: People with this common bacterial infection often don’t notice anything (it's often asymptomatic). It can cause discharges, pain when urinating, burning or itching, and complications if untreated.
  • Gonorrhea: Sometimes called 'the clap', this bacterial infection in your genitals can cause unusual discharges, swelling, and pain while urinating. It can also lead to infertility and increased risk of HIV transmission if left untreated.
  • Genital warts (HPV): Caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) which in turn causes growths or warts on the genital area. Some strains can lead to cancer.
  • Hepatitis: This inflammation of the liver is caused by viral infections (hepatitis A, B, and C). It can have a range of symptoms, from fever to vomiting to abdominal pain.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): This virus weakens the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to diseases. HIV can lead to AIDS, and death if left untreated.
  • Syphilis: A bacterial infection. Although not widespread, it progresses in stages and cause severe health problems if untreated.

The treatment, method of transmission, and general risks between STIs varies. If you reckon something isn't right, your first port of call should be your doctor. They can diagnose, suggest treatment, and if necessary, provide a referral for a specialist.

Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer, like all cancers, is a disease where your body's cells grow out of control. When this abnormal growth begins in your nuts, this is known as testicular cancer. It's the most common cancer in young men, yet one of the less common cancers overall.

Swelling, pain, or a hard lump in your nuts are the most common signs and symptoms of testicular cancer. A feeling of heaviness in your scrotum (nut sack), a dull ache, and lower back pain are also known signs.

The best way to stay on top of your health and notice any signs and symptoms of testicular cancer is to get to know your body. In a warm shower – every now and then, give your nuts a good feel and get to know what’s normal. If something is out the ordinary (like a lump, swelling or pain), head to the doctor. If you've got questions, start with Know Thy Nuts – it's packed with information and will direct you to the right resources.

Can you have sex after testicular cancer?

Yes. Having said that, you'll likely experience some changes after diagnosis and treatment.

During testicular cancer surgery, a testicle (and in some cases – both testicles) is removed. For some guys, losing a testicle may also have an emotional impact. You can still have sex, but may also have mixed feelings about your body and identity which could affect moods. It’s normal, and you can talk to your doctor as well as your partner (or close circle) about what you’re feeling. Recovery time is one of the first things to think about, as this may vary with different treatments. You just may not feel up to it, so don’t rush it if you’re not ready. Also, around 1 in 3 guys who are treated for testicular cancer experience reduced sex drive. This is common, and can be improved.

Cancer treatment is, by any measure, pretty intense. If the treatment is affecting your sex life, the best person to speak to is your doctor. Don't be shy and don't hold back. Explain where your head is at and ask when the right time is to get back to regular sex.

Nuts & Bolts is an excellent Movember resource. It's packed with information, including multiple expert articles on sex after testicular cancer. It also has a heap of practical tips on testicular cancer and fertility.

Prostate cancer

The prostate, located in the male reproductive system, produces and stores semen. The prostate sits under the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube through which you urinate and ejaculate.

Prostate cancer, as the name implies, is a cancer of the prostate gland. It is most common in older men. Symptoms include a need to urinate more than usual, especially at night; difficult, painful or burning urination; blood in urine or semen; painful ejaculation; erectile dysfunction (getting hard); and frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

Prostate cancer often grows slowly and may not require any surgery or invasive treatment.

Can you have sex after prostate cancer?

Yes, sex and intimacy after prostate cancer treatment are possible. However, after treatment, you may experience side effects that affect you physically and mentally, as well as your intimate relationships. Men undergoing prostate cancer treatment may experience erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire, and fertility problems, depending on the treatment. Men who’ve had prostate cancer surgery, and their prostate gland removed, may reach orgasm without ejaculation (known as a 'dry orgasm'). This orgasm can still feel great, but it may affect your overall sexual satisfaction and experience.

True North is another excellent Movember resource. It has loads of information on every aspect of prostate cancer, from diagnosis to treatment. It includes detailed information on sex after prostate cancer, written by qualified experts.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) means not being able to gain or maintain an erection. It's a complex issue and can have all kinds of causes. Among the most common are age, heart problems, lifestyle conditions including substance abuse, cancer treatments, along with a whole range of psychological causes.

Erectile dysfunction can be treated , regardless of whether that's physical, a mind matter, or a combination of both. Even so, depending on the cause of your ED – and even with help – your erections may not be as firm or as on-demand as they once were.

Commonly available erectile dysfunction treatments include medication, implants and devices and penile rehabilitation.

As with others matters about men's sexual health, your doctor should be your first point of contact. Talk it out with them (and as always, don’t be shy) to get the right diagnosis – and work out an action plan to get you back to feeling like your old self again. One option is to work with a sexual health counsellor or therapist – they're skilled in this area, and can help you work out you options and how this affects your intimate relationships.