Jan. 01, 2009 -- Question: What are the sexual side effects of radiation therapy for prostate cancer, and how do they compare to the sexual side effects of prostate surgery?
Answer: As men and their significant others explore options for prostate cancer, sexual quality of life is extremely important. Men have to understand that all forms of cancer treatment for prostate cancer will affect sexually quality of life -- some may affect it more than others.
Clearly, surgery has the greatest impact in an negative sense, on the ability to achieve an erection sufficient for penetration. However, radiation also does affect the ability to achieve an erection.
The difference is striking in terms of how soon this effect is seen. With surgery, men are generally impotent and then over the next couple of months, slowly will regain potency. Frequently, they will need medications to help them.
With radiation therapy, men who are fully potent before they start radiation therapy will remain potent however, over a period of time, in this case years, they will lose their potency. So both groups -- they may need the help of medications to help them with erections, it's just a matter of whether they need it sooner versus later.