What You Should Know About Prostate Cancer Treatment: Erectile Dysfunction
(Read time: 5 minutes)
This article is not intended to replace professional medical care or advice. If you have any questions or need additional information, please talk with your doctor.
If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you’re not alone. About 1 in 8 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. The good news is, if detected early, localized prostate cancer is generally associated with a high survival rate.1
However, living with prostate cancer before, during, and after treatment can have some difficulties. Some prostate cancer patients may experience side effects as a result of prostate cancer treatment.
Erectile dysfunction — along with bowel dysfunction and urinary dysfunction — is one of the more common side effects of prostate cancer treatment.2
How can prostate cancer treatment lead to erectile dysfunction?
Some level of sexual dysfunction after prostate cancer treatment is common.2
To understand why, it’s important to understand how a man achieves an erection. There is a series of fragile nerves and blood vessels close to the prostate gland. These nerves stimulate muscles, allowing for increased blood flow. They also close tiny valves to keep blood in the penis at a high pressure, which maintains the erection. Any damage to the nerves can complicate this process.3
That’s why prostatectomies (surgeries to remove part or all of the prostate gland) are often referred to as “nerve-sparing” prostatectomies. Depending on the stage and grade of prostate cancer, it can be easier or more difficult for the surgeon to remove the prostate without affecting any adjacent nerves.4
Prostate cancer patients who undergo radiation treatment may be at risk for sexual dysfunction. Up to 70% of men who undergo brachytherapy or standard external beam radiation will eventually recover erectile function after therapy.5 There are also newer treatment therapies like vessel-sparing radiation therapy, which has an even lower rate of erectile dysfunction. One study found that as many as 78% of patients who had vessel-sparing radiation therapy maintain the same level of erectile function after treatment.6
How to manage erectile dysfunction during and after prostate cancer treatment
Your treatment plan should be unique to your situation. There are many factors for determining which treatment plan is right for you. You can talk to your doctor and healthcare team, including specialists like a urologist and radiation oncologist, about benefits and risks to determine the treatment options that are right for you.
Remember, the ultimate goal of either surgery or radiation therapy for prostate cancer is to treat the cancer while trying to maintain your quality of life.
It’s important to weigh treatment option benefits and risks with your doctor.SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel is designed to help reduce prostate cancer radiation therapy side effects.7 Learn more.
There have been recent advances in prostate cancer treatment, such as radiation therapy techniques and dose planning strategies.8 And a rectal spacer such as SpaceOAR Hydrogel may lessen the radiation impact to the rectum by pushing the prostate farther from the rectum.9,10
Learn more about the side effects of prostate cancer treatment and how SpaceOAR Hydrogel can help reduce side effects from radiation and maintain your quality of life.9
If you want to learn more about potential treatment options for erectile dysfunction, or just have questions you’d like answered, find resources at EDCure.org.