It’s difficult enough dealing with something traumatic like prostate cancer, without sex stigma getting involved too. Yet although erectile dysfunction is a common problem after prostate cancer treatment, ED is still not a topic everyone feels comfortable tackling in relation to it. So we thought we’d start the discussion, with a few facts from those in the know.
6. It’s not uncommon to experience ED with prostate cancer
Erectile dysfunction itself is a complex condition, which can be caused by psychological as well as physiological things. It may be that stress or worry is preventing you from getting hard after prostate cancer treatment, or that your treatment (surgery or radiation therapy) has caused some damage from which you need to recover.
With any changes in your ability to get or keep an erection, one of the main worries for guys is that they’re somehow not normal, which can feed into the silence surrounding the problem and mean fewer men get the support they need. Let’s tackle that one straight away.
“…nearly all men will experience some erectile dysfunction for the first few months after treatment. The reason for this is simple: the nerves and blood vessels that control the physical aspect of an erection are incredibly delicate, and any trauma to the area will result in changes to the natural order.”
5. Erectile dysfunction should never be ignored
While ED can be directly attributable to prostate cancer or subsequent treatment such as surgery, the NHS website explains that it can be caused by other things too. So while it may be tempting to put any erectile issues down to cancer diagnosis or treatment, you should always make sure you discuss erectile dysfunction with your GP.
4. There are many different treatments for prostate cancer
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor will talk you through the diagnosis as well as their recommended treatments. It may in fact be the case that no direct treatment is required – the NHS says that many men with prostate cancer will not need direct treatment immediately, but rather will recommend ‘active surveillance’ – having regular tests to make sure that the prostate cancer doesn’t spread or cause further problems.
If it is at a more advanced stage, then other options will be discussed including surgery, radiotherapy or hormone therapy. Any of these can cause changes in how you get an erection, or mean you’re unable to have an erection for a period of time.
3. There are treatments for ED after prostate cancer
There are a number of things that your doctor may recommend if you’re having problems with erectile dysfunction during, or after, your prostate cancer treatment. The charity Prostate Cancer UK has lots of information and resources on possible options. These may include erectile dysfunction drugs (like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra) – these are taken orally and should produce an erection within 30 minutes to one hour. However, beware the internet charlatans if you’re researching these drugs.
Erectile dysfunction, no matter what the underlying causes, is always a difficult area to write about because we’ll probably get numerous links popping into our blog comments (don’t worry, we’ll delete the offenders!) offering their own miracle ‘snake oil.’ Erectile dysfunction is a multi-billion dollar business, and as such there are plenty of people who’ll rip you off and try to sell you potentially dangerous things. So think of this as our ‘don’t try this at home’ message, and always speak to your doctor about options.
2. There are sex toys you can use even if you can no longer achieve an erection
If you want to enjoy a fun sex life – or solo sex life – after prostate cancer, then there are sex toys that can help you achieve orgasm even when you’re flaccid. PULSE II SOLO is a new type of sex toy, with silicone wings that grip your penis and a unique oscillating PulsePlate™ which sends vibrations from the head of your penis all the way through the shaft. It’s designed to be used either flaccid or erect, so if erectile dysfunction means it’s more difficult for you to masturbate then toys such as the PULSE mean you can orgasm flaccid.
Patrick Lumbroso, Sexual Health Psychologist and Director of Psychology Services at Australia’s Life After Prostate Cancer/MindFocus clinic said:
“Scientific research now shows that vibratory stimulation is highly beneficial in helping men with erectile difficulties – both psychological and physiological.
“From a sexual engagement perspective, because the PULSE is designed to wrap itself round the penis (even when flaccid) this means that many men with severe erectile difficulties and their partners can resume having face to face, missionary or female on top position intimacy.”
Urologist Marc Richman MD said that:
“Many of the treatments that we employ to treat ED, including drugs like Viagra, require sexual stimulation to exert their pro-erection effect. Since the PULSE can be used on a flaccid penis, this stimulation could aid men in achieving better results from their ED treatments…PULSE can [also] help men learn to control their ejaculation.”
1. Prostate cancer does not mean the end of your sex life
Hopefully by this point you’ll have got the main message, but here it is again in case you’re still worried: problems with erectile dysfunction either during or after prostate cancer treatment are not uncommon. And while prostate cancer can have a profound impact on you and your sexual relationships, it does not need to signal the end of your sex life.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you – the NHS, Prostate Cancer UK, and Cancer Research UK to name just a few. What’s more, we’re working hard to spread the word about sex toys like PULSE II SOLO and PULSE II DUO (for couples), to make sure that even if you’re struggling with erectile dysfunction, you can orgasm flaccid and enjoy a pleasurable sex life after cancer.