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Prostate Cancer Treatment/Risks/ED

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common after some prostate cancer treatments, including surgery, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.

In fact, most men experience some degree of ED after treatment. Its severity, however, depends on the type of treatment and how it’s administered.

While these treatments can lead to ED, it’s important to remember that prostate cancer itself is not a cause of ED.

Surgery, or prostatectomy, involves removing all or part of the prostate. It can be nerve-sparing, in which the erectile nerves are preserved, or non-nerve-sparing, in which those nerves are cut. Men who have nerve-sparing surgery may recover erectile function within a year. Those who have non-nerve-sparing are not likely to recover function, although it is possible.

For men who undergo radiation therapy, ED often develops gradually, usually about six months after treatment. This is because radiation therapy takes longer to produce results. Men who receive more sophisticated forms of radiation therapy, such as brachytherapy (radioactive seed implants), intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), and 3-D conformal therapy, are less likely to develop ED.

Hormonal therapy aims to block the production of testosterone, which prostate cancer cells need to grow. Men who have hormone therapy usually develop ED about two to four weeks after therapy starts, along with some loss of sex drive.

No matter which therapy is chosen, there are treatments for ED. Men are encouraged to see their doctors for help.