Sex & Prostate Cancer

Erectile dysfunction can be a side effect of prostate cancer but intervening support can help

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Not only is prostate cancer tough, the toll it takes on sexual function doesn’t make things any easier. A little support from peers and professionals can help.

A recent study looks at the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions in cases of prostate cancer survivors. Face-to-face interventions that address sexual function tended to have the most successful impact.

"Find a support group or fellow survivor to talk to today!"

Marita P. McCabe, PhD, and her Psychology Honors student Katherine E. Chisholm, from the Deakin University School of Psychology in Australia teamed up with psychologists from the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Center and the National eTherapy Centre at Swinburne University of Technology to look at the psychosocial aftermath of prostate cancer on a patient’s sex life.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common side effect of prostate cancer, the existence of which can challenge a man’s confidence, mental and emotional stability, create embarrassment and cause problems in romantic relationships. 

Psychologists have looked at the emotional health of men with prostate cancer in previous studies, but this study specifically addressed sexual functioning and its effect on the relationships of men with prostate cancer.

By reviewing data reported to the databases of Medline, PsychINFO, PsychArticles from 1990 to 2011, researchers were able to compile a large pool of information on effective interventions to improve the quality of sexual relationship and function for men who had recovered from prostate cancer and their partners.

Sixty to 85 percent of men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer have experienced ED, some up to four to five years after ending treatment.

According to the authors: “In addition to erectile function, other areas of sexuality are affected, including sexual interest, sexual desire, level of sexual activity, and degree of bother associated with sexual function. Even if erectile function returns, with or without the assistance of medical aids, many men experience sexual and relationship distress and disruption, and changes in self-confidence. “

For the final group, 740 records were found from the 16 studies that fit the criteria of ‘psychosocial intervention’ for men recovering from prostate cancer.

The interventions were done by either nurses, psychologists/therapists or by fellow prostate cancer survivors, either in a group, one-on-one or over the phone, and addressed sexual functioning and/or relationship functioning.

Of all the different psychosocial intervention tactics, the most effective results were from face-to-face contact where sexual functioning was the main focus. Generally, the interventions did not help with relationship functioning.

Providing support and education on the topic of sexual functioning for men with and recovering from prostate cancer helped them better understand and cope with ED.

This study was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, May 2012. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2012
Last Updated:
August 3, 2012