mens underwear with prostate cancer support ribbonProstate cancer is the most common men’s cancer in the United States. Fortunately, more than 90 percent of prostate cancers are diagnosed in an early stage which has resulted in an equally high survival rate. The treatment of prostate cancer, though effective, isn’t without its share of side effects, with a common one being erectile dysfunction. According to the Institute of Medicine, approximately 85 percent of men report problems with erections following treatment for early-stage prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer Medications and ED

Unlike surgery and radiation for prostate cancer which damage the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels associated with the prostate; medications for prostate cancer lower testosterone levels.

Testosterone is the sex hormone that is responsible for your libido. This decrease in the production of testosterone affects a man’s interest in sex and ultimately makes it difficult to achieve or maintain erections.

Along with affecting the libido, lowered testosterone levels can also cause other issues that contribute to ED, such as weight gain, fatigue, and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease which have also been linked to erectile dysfunction. The medication prescribed for the treatment of prostate cancer is also known as hormone therapy. Several of these types of medications exist, though they are all known to have some impact on sexual desire and function.

Symptoms

As already stated, medications for prostate cancer lower testosterone levels which can result in various symptoms that contribute to ED. Some of the symptoms associated with these medications and linked to erectile dysfunction include:

  • loss of sex drive
  • impotence
  • tiredness
  • weight gain
  • anemia
  • depression
  • joint pain
  • high cholesterol levels

Along with these symptoms, hormone therapy for prostate cancer may also increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person and is based on several other factors as well, such as state of health prior to treatment, dosage, and other medications being taken.

What to Ask Your Doctor

Along with discussing your concerns and any side effects that you may be feeling, the following are things that you should also speak to your doctor about as they may also contribute to ED:

  • changing dosage or medications to lessen sexual side effects
  • how long you will be required to stay on the medication for prostate cancer
  • other medications or treatments for ED that can be taken while being treated for cancer
  • treatment options for other side effects and how they impact ED, such as antidepressants
  • any lifestyle changes or natural ways to alleviate side effects from medication
  • screening for diabetes and heart problems of which ED is a warning sign
  • other therapies, such as intermittent hormone therapy 

Dealing with prostate cancer and the effects of treatment can be overwhelming. Being open and honest with your doctor about your side effects and the impact that the treatment is having on you and your relationship will help you get the best possible care. Along with speaking to your doctor about the options available for treating your physical symptoms, it’s also a good idea to discuss any emotional issues that you’re experiencing as a result of the disease and treatment. Your experience with prostate cancer and impotence will have an impact on you and your partner. Discuss ways to help you deal with the effects as an individual and as a couple to make your road back to health an easier one.