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Prostate cancer treatment can cause erectile dysfunction

Prostate cancer treatment can lead to erectile dysfunction, or ED. 

ED is a potential complication. In fact, sexual dysfunction after radical prostatectomy affects 25–75% of men.1

A sex life after prostate cancer

Nerve-sparing recovery

The nerves that control an erection lie very close to the prostate, and may be injured during prostate cancer treatment. Prostate cancer treatments can affect your ability to get an erection on a temporary or permanent basis.  If normal sexual function does not return, treatment options are available to enable sex after prostate cancer.

ED and prostate cancer surgery

ED and Prostate Cancer Surgery: A radical prostatectomy is the complete removal of the prostate gland due to prostate cancer.

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by damage to the nerves during surgery.

Which comes first

The return to normal sexual function after prostate cancer treatment depends on your sex life before surgery, a supportive partner, the stage of your cancer, and the prostatectomy surgery itself. Many men begin to see a return to normal erections within 3 to 6 months of prostate cancer treatment.2 Other men find that their erections do not return. Should ED persist, as a prostatectomy side effect, there are treatment options for every man.

Take control

Men who are taking oral medications for ED before prostate cancer do not have to vary their medication during prostate cancer treatment. If ED persists, the penile implant may be an option. The implant is concealed inside the body. It offers support for an erection whenever and wherever desired.

A good life

After his treatment for prostate cancer led to ED, Cliff felt “devastated” and like he’d failed. Finding a solution brought back “the intimacy” — and then some — that he and his wife, Marilyn, had lost.

What you need to know

For men facing prostate cancer, the first worry is about dying. The second worry is whether the treatment will kill their sex life.

Even with nerve-sparing robotic surgery, erectile dysfunction may persist a year or more after surgery.3 Penile implants have helped men return to an active, satisfying sex life after prostate cancer.

Recovery takes time

What does recovery mean to you? Some men define it as return to confident sex.4  It is common for men to start with oral medications before or after surgery. However, Viagra™ was effective in ONLY 30–60% of men after radical prostatectomy.1 Other treatment options include penile implants, vacuum devices, injections and suppositories. Some treatments may be more effective than others for you. For men with long-term ED, penile rehabilitation may help.5

Achieving a satisfying sex life

Finding ED solutions can be a life-changing event for many men and their partners. In one study of 200 patients and 120 partners, both men and their partners found the AMS penile implant to be satisfying. 92% of patients and 96% of their partners reported sexual activity to be excellent or satisfactory with the AMS three piece inflatable.6 Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Resources to explore

Many patients find support from these organizations helpful during recovery after prostate cancer treatment. They may even have a chapter in your area.

Learn more

Two people walking on a paved trail.

Treatment options

Treatment is available for all men with ED.


  1. Matthew AG, Goldman A, Trachtenberg J, et al. Sexual dysfunction after radical prostatectomy: prevalence, treatments, restricted use of treatments and distress. J Urol. 2005 Dec;174(6):2105–10.
  2. Catalona WJ. Sexual Potency after a Radical Prostatectomy. Urological Research Foundation. Accessed May 2015.
  3. Haglind E, Carlsson S, Stranne J, et al. Urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction after robotic versus open radical prostatectomy: a prospective controlled nonrandomized trial. Eur Urol. 2015 Aug;68(2):216–25.
  4. Wittmann D, Carolan M, Given B, et al. What couples say about their recovery of sexual intimacy after prostatectomy: toward the development of a conceptual model of couples’ sexual recovery after surgery for prostate cancer. J Sex Med. 2015 Feb;12(2):494–504.
  5. Mulhall JP, Bivalacqua TJ, Becher EF. Standard operating procedure for the preservation of erectile function outcomes after radical prostatectomy. J Sex Med. 2013 Jan;10(1):195–203.
  6. Montorsi F, Rigatti P, Carmingnani G, et al. AMS three-piece inflatable implants for erectile dysfunction: a long-term multi-institution study in 200 consecutive patients. Eur Urol. 2000 Jan;37(1):50–5.