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How to Understand How Prostate Cancer Surgery May Affect Your Sex Life

If you're facing an operation for prostate cancer, you may be concerned about how it can affect your sex life. Here's what you need to know.


  • Step 1: Take other medical conditions into account: men who have other diseases such as diabetes that interfere with their ability to achieve and maintain erections have a more difficult time regaining their pretreatment function, whether they opted for surgery or radiation.
  • Step 2: Take heart knowing that there are many ways to manage erectile dysfunction -- medications, a penile pump, or a penile implant – that will give you back a robust sex life.
  • FACT: The 5-year survival rate for prostate cancer is 98 percent, and the 10-year survival rate is greater than 90 percent.
  • Step 3: Realize that radiation treatment is not without risks to your sex life. Research suggests that men who undergo radiation treatment for prostate cancer are less likely to experience erectile dysfunction at first, but in some cases their erectile dysfunction gets worse over time because radiation takes longer to produce this side effect.
  • TIP: It pays to shop around for a skilled surgeon with a lot of experience in prostate cancer surgery; their patients have better outcomes.
  • Step 4: Anticipate fewer problems if you are a candidate for nerve-sparing surgery -- which removes the cancer while avoiding cutting erectile nerves that run alongside the prostate.
  • Step 5: Weigh the pros and cons of laparoscopic surgery. In one study, patients who chose this less invasive surgery required fewer blood transfusions and had fewer postoperative complications, but they were more likely to have incontinence and erectile dysfunction 18 months later.
  • Step 6: Be patient: Within 1 year of surgery, between 40 and 50 percent of men who had nerve-sparing surgery returned to pretreatment sexual function. The outcome for patients for whom nerve-sparing surgery was not possible is not as encouraging; they may have permanent erectile dysfunction, especially if they had erection problems before surgery.
  • Step 7: Expect to have problems achieving an erection for the first few months after your operation; nearly all men who have prostate cancer surgery -- or any kind of prostate cancer treatment -- experience erectile dysfunction as they heal.

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