I am not talking about my friend and fishing partner, Edward (Ed).
Nope… I am talking about the big question that comes up most often in our prostate cancer education groups. “How do you cope with the side effects of prostate cancer following surgery or radiation?” I would say 70 to 80% of the men are apprehensive about the ability to maintain sexual functioning.
Contributing factors for sexual function
How well one can maintain sexual function depends on many factors. Chief among those is what your ability was to achieve erection before treatment. Other factors that come into play are a man’s overall health, his age, and what conditions he might be dealing with such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart issues, along with the various medications he might be taking. Many are surprised to learn that the use or overuse of alcohol can also impact performance before and after prostate cancer treatment.
After age 40, many men can begin to experience issues. Fortunately, erectile dysfunction (ED) medications can be used to help men rise to the occasion both prior to and after treatment. Physicians at our hospital suggest the use of a low-dose post-operative treatment of Cialis or Viagra to help men with penile rehabilitation. Sadly, as with all things in life, there are mixed signals on effectiveness, depending on your reactions.
Considering erectile dysfunction medications
The bottom line on recovering sexual performance depends on nerve function and how much nerve function was maintained after treatment. Personally, my prostate cancer was contained, allowing the surgeon to do nerve sparing surgery. The use of low-dose Viagra proved to be extremely effective.
A downside of erectile dysfunction drugs is that some men cannot tolerate the side effects and can encounter different negative reactions, including backache, dizziness, headache, indigestion nausea, and more. I experienced vision issues.
If you have any kind of heart issues or had a stroke, you probably would be well-advised not to take the medications. And if you take something like a nitrate drug, your MD may advise that you not use ED medication due to the possibility of heart problems, low blood pressure, and dizziness. Throughout my lifetime, I had never experienced fainting or dizziness. It surprised me one morning when I was suddenly looking up at the ceiling.
If you cannot tolerate the drugs, you might benefit from some type of a suction device, which basically is a pump that draws blood into the penis to create an erection. Another solution can be an injection into the penis a few minutes before intercourse. Side effects from these drugs can also include dizziness and a prolonged erection. While some men think it might be beneficial to have a long-lasting erection, such an occurrence can be quite painful and can require medical treatment.
If you are concerned about erectile dysfunction following treatment, please know that there are a lot of options available. Speak openly with your urologist, and do not be shy about asking for information on surgically-implanted penile devices. The option has worked for several men in our support group.
When you are facing prostate cancer, please remember you may be facing a potentially deadly opponent. We all must decide what course of action is best. But if your decisions are based on future erections, you might want to stop and consider the many options that are available to men today.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?