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Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Caused by Prostate Cancer Treatment

Prostate cancer itself doesn't usually cause erectile dysfunction (ED); but, treatments for prostate cancer can. Current methods of treating prostate cancer, including surgery with radical prostatectomy (removal of the entire prostate gland), radiation therapy, whether by external beam or brachytherapy (radioactive seed implants), and hormone therapy, can all cause some form of erectile dysfunction.

The likelihood of developing ED following prostate cancer treatment depends on several factors, including: the type of surgery (nerve sparing or non-nerve sparing), your age, the extent of the cancer, the quality of erections prior to surgery and whether you received additional therapies, such as hormone therapy prior to the surgery or radiation therapy, either prior to or after the surgery.

If you do develop erectile dysfunction following treatment for prostate cancer you have several treatment options to consider.

Treatment Options for ED After Prostate Cancer

Drug Therapy

There are currently five oral drugs -- Viagra, Levitra, Stendra, Staxyn,and Cialis -- that are available to treat ED in people who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer. While success rates vary, people who are more likely to benefit from medication are those who have had bilateral nerve sparing radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy. In addition, younger men undergoing treatment for ED tend to reap more benefits from these drugs. Also, men with fewer ED risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease, also gain the most benefit.

Penile Injections

This is the most common treatment for ED in people who have had treatment for prostate cancer and did not respond to oral therapy. Penile injection works in about 80% of people who use it, but despite the success rate, long-term use of the treatment is low. The treatment involves injecting medicine into the penis prior to sex; but, if the technique is performed properly, pain is not usually a significant problem.

Vacuum Constriction Devices

Vacuum constriction devices have been helpful to some men with ED after prostate cancer treatment. Many men, however, find the devise uncomfortable or somewhat cumbersome.

Penile Prostheses

Penile prosthesis is another treatment option for men experiencing ED as a result of prostate cancer treatment. However, doctors generally recommend patients wait one to two years before considering an implant to see if their condition improves or responds to one of the nonsurgical treatment options.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Charles E. Jennings, MD on September 12, 2013

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