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Erectile Dysfunction Health Center

Viagra Works for the Long Haul

Viagra May Be Effective for Erectile Dysfunction Linked to Prostate Cancer Treatment
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WebMD Health News

Oct. 21, 2003 (Salt Lake City) -- With prostate cancer treatment success often comes at a heavy price: erectile dysfunction. But, a new study shows that Viagra will work in nearly 70% of the men who have radiation-associated erectile dysfunction for years to come.

Michael Zelefsky, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, N.Y., tells WebMD that the radiation-associated erectile dysfunction usually "begins about six months after [they] have concluded therapy, but it can occur at any time during or after treatment." He says that he has already reported that "about 70% of men initially respond to Viagra. However, [they] didn't know if the response would be durable."

In the new study, which was presented at the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, Zelefsky and his colleagues studied the "durability" of response by following 360 men with radiation-induced erectile dysfunction who initially responded to the drug. He followed the group for an average of nearly four years after their surgery to see if they were still taking Viagra for erectile dysfunction.

The results, he says, were surprising. "I didn't really expect them to still be taking the drug and I expected that for many men the effect would diminish with time." But after almost four years, 96% of the men who initially responded to Viagra were still taking the drug and all but six of those men said the drug was still effective.

All of the men in the study had prostate cancer that was confined to the prostate gland. They received radiation therapy by either external beam treatment or by brachytherapy, in which radioactive "seeds" implanted in the prostate deliver radiation directly to the tumor.

The external radiation is done while the patient lies in a special box that allows multiple radiation beams to be directed directly to the prostate gland from all sides, while the rest of the body is protected from the radiation.

Prostate cancer is mainly found in older men. After prostate cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to determine if it has spread outside the gland. Because there are different treatments available, determining how much the cancer has spread this will help in deciding what treatment is best for the cancer.

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