- Normal sexual function in a man involves four different functions: libido or sex drive, erectile function (ability to have an erection), ejaculation and orgasm. These functions are controlled in different ways
- Treatment for localised prostate cancer can affect erectile function and ejaculation.
- Early treatment with medications or other methods can help restore erectile function.
- Medication to help erections can be used in different ways – for maintenance (low dose), and as a ‘booster’ when needed. But it is costly.
- Medication does have side effects and is not suitable for some men – you need to check first with your doctor.
- Other methods are injection therapy and vacuum erection devices.
- Involve your partner in your decisions and discussions with your doctor.
There is a wide variability in sexual function as men grow older; however a gradual decline is normal.
After treatment for prostate cancer, your sexual function can be affected. This information describes what may happen and why, and what is available to assist you. Not all aspects of male sexual problems are covered here – just the common ones you may encounter after treatment.
When a man has trouble gaining and sustaining an erection, doctors call this erectile dysfunction or ED. Many factors can prevent normal sexual function and one of the most important is simply growing older! But others are diabetes, smoking or a history of smoking, high alcohol intake and some medications. Emotional or psychological stress can also cause a decline in sexual activity. Many men have a combination of factors, so there is a wide range in sexual function as men grow older.
Prostate cancer treatment is an additional negative influence. Men who had frequent sexual activity before their diagnosis and treatment are more likely to continue this after treatment than men who were only sometimes sexually active. Men who had weak erections before treatment are likely to have weaker or no erections afterwards.
The prostate cancer itself rarely has a direct effect on reducing erectile function. It is the treatment that causes the main impact.