Prostate cancer treatment and erectile dysfunction is a combination that appears more often than men may have heard or realize. Indeed, most men who undergo prostate cancer treatment experience ED in some form. That’s because during some prostate cancer treatments, the nerves, blood vessels, and tissues that are necessary to create an erection are often traumatized or damaged. How this damage occurs differs depending on the type of treatment, as well as factors such as the expertise of the professional administering the treatment, length of treatment, stage and grade of cancer, and how many different types of therapies a man has undergone. In other forms of non-invasive treatment, such as hormone therapy and chemotherapy, the drugs and hormones used in the treatment process can also have a significant effect on erectile function and sexual health. Read more on causes of ED
Cancer Treatments Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction
Men who have prostate cancer have a range of treatment options. However, prostate cancer treatment and erectile dysfunction as a complication is a topic all men should discuss with their physician before choosing a treatment. The following treatment options available to men who have prostate cancer can all have an impact on erectile function:
- Prostate cancer surgery. Damage to nerves and penile tissue directly impact sexual function following surgery. Read more about ED and prostate cancer surgery
- Hormone therapy. The use of hormones for treatment of prostate cancer impacts testosterone levels as well as libido resulting in erectile dysfunction. Read more about ED and hormone therapy
- Chemotherapy. The use of chemotherapy drugs often slows down the amount of testosterone the body produces, which in turn can have a negative impact on erectile function. Read more about ED and chemotherapy
- Radiation therapy. This includes external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy, and proton therapy. Erectile dysfunction is a common complication of radiation therapy for prostate cancer because the radiation always penetrates the erectile chambers. Read more about ED and radiation therapy
- HIFU (High Intensity Focused Ultrasound). A relatively new procedure using focused ultrasound to treat prostate cancer. HIFU also impacts a man’s sexual function. Read more about ED and high intensity focused ultrasound
- Cryosurgery. Erectile dysfunction is the most common side effect of cryosurgery. Read more about ED and cryosurgery
Whatever treatment is chosen, patients should be fully informed beforehand about prostate cancer treatment and erectile dysfunction.
Depending on the treatment chosen, many men have trouble getting an erection for up to 18 months or longer after treatment for prostate cancer, and some do not regain their sexual function at all. Many men have to rely on treatments for ED such as medications, penis pumps (otherwise known as “vacuum erection devices”), implants, injections, suppositories, further surgery, or penile rehabilitation. More on treatments for ED
Penile rehabilitation is a concept based on the belief that men who develop erectile dysfunction related to prostatectomy, radiation therapy, or other therapies or circumstances are treated soon after the precipitating event. This can help give them erections, protect the erectile tissue, and optimize a man’s ability to regain his pre-treatment erectile function. The ultimate goal is to have men reach a point where they do not need pills, penile injections, or other treatments to achieve an erection.
Given that sexual function is an important factor in the lives of many men, regardless of age, recovering erectile function through penile rehabilitation is an effort some men may want to consider. Some men can recover some or all of the erectile function they had before prostate cancer treatment and erectile dysfunction, but it can take years. Other men will never return to their previous level of sexual function. Penile rehabilitation offers men a treatment option that may help them recover erectile function more quickly and completely. More on penile rehabilitation