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by Colony Brown   |   February 12, 2019

Erectile Dysfunction: What to Expect and How to Manage It

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is difficult for any man to endure. Navigating treatment options, dealing with financial strain, and facing emotional recovery are intimidating hurdles. Advanced prostate cancer survivors, and often their partners, face the additional challenge of the most common side effect of any prostate cancer treatment: erectile dysfunction (ED).

ED, also known as impotence, is when a man cannot achieve or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual function. Most men who undergo treatment for prostate cancer will experience some ED for the first several months after treatment, despite nerve sparing surgery or precision radiation. This is because the blood vessels that control an erection are easily affected by any trauma to the area.

ED can limit your intimacy, affect self-esteem, and impact your relationship with your partner. Some men also find that prostate cancer and its treatment can cause tiredness and lack of energy, which can affect their desire for sex. It can be difficult to cope with the sexual changes, which may affect in your current or future relationships. By maintaining an open line of communication with your partner and leaning on each other for support, you can get through the challenges that come with ED. Numerous treatments are available to address ED, including physical therapy, oral medications, penile injections, vacuum erection devices, intraurethral suppositories, and penile implants.

What can I do to address my erectile dysfunction?

  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight
  • Stay active and exercise frequently
  • Practice Kegel exercises
  • Avoid drinking or smoking

As you consider treatment, it’s important to keep in mind that a number of factors can impact whether you will be able to achieve an erection after treatment:

  • Your ability to achieve an erection before treatment
  • Other medical conditions, like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes
  • Other medications you may be taking, including blood pressure medications
  • Your lifestyle, and including whether you drink or smoke
  • Your age
  • The type of treatment you had
  • The aggressiveness of your cancer

Talk to your doctor to determine the right ED management strategy for you. ED can be an uncomfortable topic, but being open and honest will allow your doctor to make the best treatment recommendation for you. If your doctor is not an ED expert or comfortable treating ED, you may ask for a referral for someone who is.

This article is an excerpt from ZERO’s Advanced Prostate Cancer newsletter.