Penis Shortening is Reversible for Some Men

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One of the biggest fears for many males (and their wives) following a diagnosis of prostate cancer is whether or not the man after recovering from prostate surgery will be able to achieve and maintain a functional erection. In cases where a radical prostatectomy is performed, often times irreversible damage results to the nerves responsible for normal functioning of the penis.

Furthermore, up to 50% of all men who have a radical prostatectomy also develop urinary incontinence that necessitates wearing pads or diapers to prevent staining of clothing from constant dribbling of urine. In many cases, urinary problems may last as long as a year or more.

As if the two aforementioned complications of prostate surgery weren’t bad enough, it also turns out that shortening of the penis can occur as well by as much as up to 1 centimeter--subtracting away what many would consider a serious quality of life issue.

The good news, however, is that a recent study shows that fears of losing some penis length among men considering to have prostate surgery are short-lived as the penis shortening turns out to be reversible 24 to 48 months following a radical prostatectomy.

In the study titled “The Natural History of Penile Length After Radical Prostatectomy: A Long-term Prospective Study” and published in the December issue of the medical journal Urology, researchers conducted a long-term study following 105 men with localized prostate cancer who were treated with a radical prostatectomy.

What the researchers found was that the stretched penile length after a radical prostatectomy decreased an average of 1 cm from the normal baseline measurement made prior to surgery. Penis length before and after surgery was determined by stretching out the flaccid penis from the pubopenile skin angle to the end of the glans, with the prepubic fat near the base of the shaft of the penis depressed while applying “maximum manual traction.” The maximum amount of penis shortening occurs between 3 and 24 months post surgery.

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However, the penile shortening was observed to reverse itself with re-lengthening occurring by approximately 40% at 36 months and nearly 100% by 48 months.

According to the authors of the study:

"Penile shortening of approximately 1 cm after RP may be expected up to 12 months. However, a trend toward recovery of baseline penile length occurs after 24 months of follow-up and, furthermore, is completely re-established after 48 months…the maintenance of erectile function after RP is a predictor for early recovery of penile length."

The take home message for men who are faced with balancing the health benefits with the health risks of prostate surgery is that they need not be overly concerned with fears of “significant shrinkage” for the rest of their lives if they have prostate surgery.

For informative articles about erectile dysfunction and prostate surgery, follow the list of links below:

Shock Therapy for Treating Erectile Dysfunction

New Theory About Preserving Erectile Function After Prostate Surgery

How to avoid erection problems after prostate surgery

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: “The Natural History of Penile Length After Radical Prostatectomy: A Long-term Prospective Study” Urology Vol. 80, Issue 6, pp. 1293-1297 (December 2012); Juliana Souza Vasconcelos et al.

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