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    Sexuality and Reproductive Issues (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Factors Affecting Sexual Function in Cancer Patients

    Certain cancer treatments can affect sexual function.

    Surgery

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    Overview

    Coenzyme Q10 (commonly known as CoQ10) is a compound that is made naturally in the body. The body uses it for cell growth and to protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer (see Question 1). Animal studies have shown that CoQ10 helps the immune system work better and makes the body better able to resist certain infections and types of cancer (see Question 5). Clinical trials have shown that CoQ10 helps protect the heart from the damaging side effects of doxorubicin, a drug...

    Read the Overview article > >

    Surgery for the following cancers can cause body changes that have sexual side effects:

    • Breast cancer : Sexual function after breast cancer surgery depends on the type of surgery. Compared to surgery to remove the whole breast, surgery to save or reconstruct the breast seems to have little effect on sexual function (including how often women have sex, the ease of reaching orgasm, or overall sexual satisfaction). Women who have surgery to save the breast are more likely to continue to enjoy breast caressing. However, having a mastectomy (surgery to remove part or all of the breast) has been linked to a loss of interest in sex.
    • Rectal cancer : Problems with sexual and bladder function are common after surgery for rectal cancer. Surgery for rectal cancer can injure the nerves in the pelvic cavity. Nerves can be damaged when their blood supply is affected or when the nerves are cut. Nerve injury is the main cause of problems with erection, ejaculation, and orgasm.
    • Prostate cancer : Surgery for prostate cancer (radical prostatectomy) is being done with newer nerve-sparing techniques. Recovery of erectile function usually happens within a year after having a radical prostatectomy. However, recovery of erectile function after radiation therapy is slow and happens over two or three years. Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy using radioactive implants) is being used more often to treat prostate cancer. There is less effect on ejaculation and erectile function with brachytherapy alone than when external radiation and/or hormone therapy are added. Many patients have trouble with orgasm after treatment for prostate cancer with radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy. Talk with your doctor about problems with orgasm, changes in penis length, and urinary incontinence during orgasm.
    • Testicular cancer : Most studies suggest that problems with sexual function after testicular cancer and its treatment (such as surgery to remove the testicle) are usually short-term. Function usually returns to about the same level as in men who do not have testicular cancer.
    • Other pelvic tumors: Men who have surgery to remove the bladder, colon, and/or rectum may get erectile function back sooner if nerve-sparing surgery is used. The sexual side effects of radiation therapy for pelvic tumors are similar to those after prostate cancer treatment. Women who have surgery to remove the uterus, ovaries, bladder, or other organs in the abdomen or pelvis may have pain and loss of sexual function depending on the amount of tissue or organ removed. With counseling and other medical treatments, these patients may get normal sensation back in the vagina and genital areas and be able to have intercourse and reach orgasm without pain.
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