Cancer treatment and erectile dysfunction

Having treatment for cancer can cause side effects, including erectile dysfunction (ED). If you’ve been diagnosed with a urological cancer such as prostate cancer, bladder cancer or testicular cancer, you may have treatment that could cause ED[1,2].

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in the UK - 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives[3]. Your risk of getting prostate cancer increases with age, but you’re also more likely to get it if you’re black or if your father or brother has had it[3]. Read more about prostate cancer on the Prostate Cancer UK website.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a urological cancer, for example prostate, kidney or bladder cancer, you may have had, or be about to have, treatment. Your treatment may involve surgery to remove the prostate (radical prostatectomy) or radiotherapy to your pelvic area. These treatments may damage blood vessels and tissue in your penis and pelvic area. This can cause ED - difficulty getting and keeping an erection.

What treatments are available to help my ED?

If you have, or you’re worried about, erection problems talk to your doctor or specialist nurse at the hospital. You may be referred to an ED clinic. ED is a very common side effect of cancer treatment and health professionals will have experience of supporting people with ED. Talk to them about your own situation and what treatments might be right for you. Remember that it may take a while to find a treatment that works well.

The most common type of treatment for ED is medicine such as Viagra. It’s usually fine to take ED medication at the same time, or after, having cancer treatment. But Viagra may not be suitable if you have other health conditions, such as heart problems[4].

Remember to always ask a pharmacist or talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any questions about the medicine you’re taking. Including, how medicine for ED may interact with other medicines you’re taking. Read more about the different treatment options for managing ED.

Dealing with cancer and ED

If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, or you’re having treatment for cancer, you may be dealing with a lot of different emotions such as shock, sadness, anger and worry. This is normal, and all of these emotions can affect how you think and feel about sex. Feeling this way may reduce your libido (desire for sex) and cause symptoms of ED.

Talking about how you feel or writing down your thoughts can be helpful. Some people find it helps to talk to a professional, such as a psychologist or a counsellor. You might want to try this as well as taking medication for ED. Ask your doctor or nurse to refer you, or refer yourself through the NHS.

Published

December 2020

Next review

December 2021

Reviewed by

Gill Stone MRPharmS

"

Our pharmacists are trained to give support and advice to people who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Gill Stone - MRPharmS

Where can I get further support and information?

As well as talking to your GP for information and support, there are also a number of organisations and charities offering support and information.

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Further reading on erectile dysfunction

Information if your partner has erection problems

Information and support for people whose partner has erection problems.

Ways to treat erectile dysfunction

Find out about some of the common treatment options for erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction in gay and bisexual men

Support and resources for gay and bisexual men experiencing erectile dysfunction.

References

  1. 2.

    Sex and relationships | Prostate Cancer UK | Accessed September 4, 2020.

    https://prostatecanceruk.org/prostate-information/living-with-prostate-cancer/sex-and-relationships
  2. 3.

    About prostate cancer | Prostate Cancer UK | Accessed September 4, 2020.

    https://prostatecanceruk.org/prostate-information/about-prostate-cancer
  3. 4.

    Viagra 100 mg film-coated tablets - Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) - (emc). Accessed September 4, 2020.

    https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/7978/smpc