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Stereotactic Radiotherapy: More Research Needed on Sexual Outcomes

Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a newer form of radiation treatment. It differs from other types in that it delivers higher doses from different angles to a more targeted area. Men can finish a course of SBRT in a much shorter time, too. SBRT can be finished in a week, while men undergoing external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) might need 6 to 8 weeks of treatment.

While the short duration of SBRT may be an advantage, it’s still not clear how much it affects sexual function.

In July 2019, a team of researchers investigated this question further. They reviewed previous medical studies of SBRT and sexual outcomes. Overall, the studies included results from 1,221 men who underwent SBRT for prostate cancer. The men ranged in age from 42 to 90.

“Deterioration of sexual health was found,” the researchers reported. In 5 of the 12 studies consulted, 26% to 55% of the men had erectile dysfunction 60 months after SBRT treatment. This range is not much different from other types of prostate cancer treatments, the authors said.

However, it was difficult to make generalizations from the data. For example, not all of the studies assessed or define erectile dysfunction the same way. Not all studies considered the men’s age or their sexual health before prostate cancer treatment – two factors that can affect erections.

In addition, only one study took other health conditions into account. Illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, as well as obesity and smoking, can all play a role in a man’s sexual function. “It is mandatory that future trials integrate these parameters when exploring sexual outcomes,” the authors wrote.

They recommended further research on SBRT and sexuality so that men can make more informed decisions about care.


Cancer Research UK

“Stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT)”

(Last reviewed: January 3, 2019)

Cleveland Clinic

“SBRT: Why More Men Should Know About This Treatment for Prostate Cancer”

(September 26, 2018)

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Loi, Mauro, MD, et al.

“Sexual Function in Patients Treated With Stereotactic Radiotherapy For Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review of the Current Evidence”

(Full-text. Published online: July 11, 2019)

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