Erectile Dysfunction & Cancer

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Erectile dysfunction is a common side effect of prostate cancer treatment or of the cancer itself. The erectile problems can be caused because of nerve damage by the tumour or the surgery that is used to remove it. The hormone and radiation therapy that is often used in various cancer treatments can also cause erectile dysfunction.

How Cancer Treatment causes Erectile Dysfunction

The cancer treatments often damage nerves and even lead to ‘dry ejaculation’ which can cause long term erectile dysfunctions which can lead to infertility. Because of this side effect of cancer treatment many younger men who are concerned about their fertility often bank their sperm before the procedure.

Radiation therapy causes erectile dysfunction up to 6 months after the treatment, although more sophisticated radiation therapy such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) can be used which does not have such a high chance of causing erectile problems.

Hormone therapy can lead to erectile problems when the treatment first begins and it can also lead to a loss of libido. After the treatment is finished it is extremely uncommon to have lasting erectile problems.

Treating the erectile problems

Treatment is widely available to you if you have had or are suffering from prostate cancer and so you should not think that erectile dysfunction is something that has to be dealt with on a long term basis because of your other health problems. The most common treatment is oral medication such as Viagra and Levitra which is widely available on the NHS.

Another alternative is intracavernous injection therapy which is injected into the penis before sexual intercourse. Vacuum devices and penile implants can also be used.

Psychological factors

There may be some psychological factors that can cause erectile problems during and after the cancer treatment. Fatigue and tiredness can cause a loss in libido which can then be shown through erective problems. After surgery you may also feel sore and tender and sex could lead to your recovery time being made longer and often more painful.

After suffering from cancer talking to a therapist or a psychosexual counsellor may be the best way forward to get your sex life back on track. It may also be a good idea to include your partner in this treatment to ensure that you have extra support. 

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