When Can I Enjoy Sex Again?

Sexual function after prostate cancer treatment is possible

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Prostate cancer treatment typically interferes with sexual function. It's to be expected. Now, doctors have a way of predicting when normal sexual activity will resume.

According to a new research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a number of factors can be used to predict when a man's sexual function will return after prostate cancer treatment. And having candid conversations about these topics helps to improve patient quality of life.

"Talk to your doctor - candidly - about the side effects of cancer therapies."

Early detection and treatment of prostate cancer dramatically improve survival rates. And while the cancer can be controlled, side effects - including sexual function - are more troubling, according to principal study investigator, Martin G. Sanda, M.D., director of the Prostate Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor of urology at Harvard Medical School.

To learn more about recovering from treatment side effects, researchers from a number of institutions interviewed 2,940 men from around the country before prostate cancer treatment and two years afterwards.

The study determined:

  • 40 percent of men who had their prostates removed had full sexual function two years after surgery.
  • 58 percent of men treated with radiation maintained sexual function.
  • 63 percent of those who had brachytherapy did not suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED).
  • A large number of participants had not tried medications to treat ED.

Researchers also learned that a number of factors influenced the return of full sexual health, including:

  • Age
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels
  • Nerve-sparing surgical procedures
  • Hormone therapy with radiation

The higher the PSA levels and the larger the prostate at the time of treatment have an impact on treatment and recovery.

Sanda says that doctors and patients tend to be uncomfortable talking about sexual function. He encourages both to be open to and willing to have these conversations and explore treatment alternatives. Such candid discussions can help optimize recovery.

This study appears in the September 21, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 20, 2011
Last Updated:
September 26, 2011