Radiation for prostate cancer does not lead to ongoing sexual problems

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Men receiving treatment for prostate cancer with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) often experience problems functioning sexually. A new study shows that after two years sexual function in men who received radiation treatment for prostate cancer stabilizes - a finding that is important for men when making decisions about cancer treatment.

The study shows that radiation treatment for prostate cancer can produce different effects among men. Previous beliefs that EBRT would cause a progressive decline in sexual drive and erectile function may keep men from choosing the treatment as an option for prostate cancer treatment.

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Within the first two years following radiation therapy for prostate cancer treatment, sexual decline does occur. However, the new study found in a four year study that analyzed sexual drive, erectile function, ejaculatory function and overall satisfaction in sexual function then stabilized.

The researchers evaluated 143 men for sexual function before treatment, and for two years following. Prostate cancer treatment can have long term side effects. The study is the first to explore sexual function in men undergoing EBRT.

Richard Valicenti, M.D., M.A., senior author on the study and professor and chair of radiation oncology at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine says, "The results of this study allow patients and their partners to have a fuller understanding of the long-term sexual side effects of EBRT and what they can expect after treatment, which should aid in deciding on a treatment course."

Sexual difficulty before treatment turned out to be strongest predictor of sexual problems following radiation therapy for prostate cancer. The study authors acknowledge the importance of satisfying outcomes, especially related to sexual function, when choosing treatment options. Radiation therapy was found to lead to sexual problems for men treated for prostate cancer with radiation initially, but stabilized after two years.

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