Previous research has shown that some patients and/or partners are too anxious about sexual issues to seek help from a therapist face-to-face.
An internet-based program that offers online tools and surveys, as well as interaction with the therapist by email, gives them a less threatening option. "Not only do men often use the internet to search for information on sex, but prostate cancer patients consider the web a valuable resource for information on the impact of treatment on sex," said Schover.
Another advantage of web-based counseling for couples is the potentially lower cost. While many insurance companies cover medical treatment of erection problems after prostate cancer, the cost of sex therapy is often not reimbursed. Already burdened with co-payments for their cancer treatment, many couples cannot afford additional costs associated with mental health care.
"Very few insurance policies sufficiently cover sexual counseling in particular, and mental health counseling in general," said Schover. "Another barrier is that there are few mental health care professionals trained to deal with both cancer coping and sexual problems."
The results from the CAREss study have already contributed to Schover's current research. She is developing a more general multimedia interactive counseling program to help men with any type of cancer and their partners improve their sex lives. She hopes this program will help men and couples with limited insurance or lack of access to a big city or cancer center.