Erectile Dysfunction and Prostate Cancer
Sexual function is an important topic but one that men might not put at the top of their priority list after receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Many men fear impotence as a side effect of the treatment/disease.
Prostate Cancer Treatment; Why Erectile Dysfunction May Occur As A Result
The side effect of impotence may be a result of the treatment options for prostate cancer which may include surgery or radiation. Both of these two treatment options can affect the nerves surrounding the prostate that enable a man to have an erection.
One of the primary reasons for impotence as a side effect is that the prostate gland surrounds the base of the bladder and the base of the penis, and consequently nerves that are related to both sexual function and urinary function can be damaged either by the prostate cancer cells themselves or by the treatment. An impact on these nerves is fairly common; it all depends on where the cancer is located.
In a radical prostatectomy, the nerves may be removed or they may become damaged. In some occasions even when there is no nerve damage, impotence may still occur in men who have had surgery to treat prostate cancer. In these cases it could be that the veins and blood vessels in and around the penis have sustained damage during surgery, which can affect the ability to have an erection.
When undergoing radiation therapy, prostate cancer patients may experience damage to the blood vessels to the penis, and therefore issues with impotency may occur over time.
Which Men Are Affected?
Your age, sexual health and the type of treatment that you received can all determine wow likely you are to become impotent following prostate cancer treatment.
Younger me (40 to 49) and those men who have had healthy erections before prostate cancer treatment are more likely to be able to achieve erections after treatment. Men with tumors that have grown beyond the prostate are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction.
The risk of impotence is much lower if the patient has nerve-sparing surgery. However, if the nerves are damaged during this type of surgery, many men may still experience some temporary erectile dysfunction for 2 to 18 months afterward.
What You Can Do About Erectile Dysfunction
A strong relationship with your partner in addition to patience and the passing of time can help improve your sexual health after prostate cancer treatments. Most men feel anxious and worried about this side effect, but doctors should be counseling patients and advising them that the nerves around the prostate require time to heal.
Studies have shown that couples counseling can be of great help to men after prostate cancer treatment. There are also several medications and devices that may help:
• Prescription medications. A number of prescription medications that can be taken orally, including such brand names as Levitra, Cialis and Viagra. These drugs help to increase blood flow to the penis. They work best in prostate cancer patients who still have healthy nerve bundles on each side of the prostate.
• Medication injections. To help increase blood flow and stimulate an erection there are medications that can be injected into the side of the penis. Once a doctor shows you how to administer them the injections can be given at home by a partner.
• Surgical implants. Some men choose a permanent penile implant that can be surgically inserted in the penis to facilitate erections.
• External devices. A pump attached to a tube that covers the penis and creates a vacuum is an option. This stimulates an erection by increasing blood flow to the penis. For a short period of time s ring may also be placed on the penis to maintain an erection.
It is important to note that not every man who gets treated for prostate cancer will experience erectile dysfunction. Men should talk with their doctor about treatment options and medical devices and drugs that can be used post-surgery.