Erectile Dysfunction and Prostate Cancer: Can it be avoided?

The National Institutes of Health estimates that as many as 30 million men in the U.S. experience erectile dysfunction, and prostate cancer is a leading contributor. Before you choose a prostate cancer treatment, it’s important to understand this serious side effect of prostate cancer and learn how it might be avoided or minimized.

Getting your questions and concerns out in the open will help arm you with accurate information to make a good decision for your situation. Let’s start with the basics.

What: Erectile dysfunction, also called ED or sometimes impotence, is used to define a range of problems that have to do with achieving and maintaining an erection suitable for sexual relations. Some men define it as one of the worst things that could happen. But if you’re facing a diagnosis of prostate cancer, you know that not appropriately treating your disease could be much worse.

Why: The nerves that control erections are “inconveniently” located on both sides of the bottom front of the prostate. If they’re removed or damaged during treatment, ED can be the result. Damage to the blood vessels in the prostate also can interfere with your ability to get an erection. Traditional prostate treatments such as prostatectomy (removal of the prostate) and radiation are the biggest culprits, but nerve-sparing techniques are making it a less risky option.

Who: For the millions of men in the U.S. affected by ED, prostate cancer treatment is just one of many causes. Other causes of ED include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. Men undergoing prostate cancer treatment that involve the delicate nerves and blood vessels that control erection, are at risk for ED.

When: Most men undergoing surgery or radiation therapy for prostate cancer will experience ED for at least the first few months following treatment. For the majority of men, erectile function eventually returns, but it can take up to a year or longer after more radical procedures such as prostate surgery. Some men may experience permanent ED.

How to avoid Erectile Dysfunction After Prostate Cancer Treatment: If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer but not yet treated, consider your options and the likelihood of erectile dysfunction. External beam radiation, brachytherapy (seed implantation), and radical prostate surgery (prostatectomy) all carry a risk of side effects including ED, and urinary and bowel dysfunction. While the effects can be temporary, because of tissue changes and damage, sometimes the side effects are permanently.

Before you choose a treatment option, talk with your doctor about whether targeted focal cryotherapy, is an option for you. Targeted focal cryotherapy, also known as targeted focal therapy, removes only the cancer tumors and leaves the surrounding prostate tissue intact. Because targeted focal therapy – sometimes called the “male lumpectomy” — is less invasive and spares essential nerves, there is a lower chance of experiencing permanent ED.

At Precision Prostate Cancer Care, we have found that the majority of our patients undergoing Precision Treatment have recovered the level of sexual activity they had before the procedure within three to six months.