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Does surgery for prostate cancer cause ED?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Surgery for prostate cancer can cause erectile dysfunction. Nerves that carry signals from the spine to the penis run very close to the prostate. Sometimes during surgery to remove cancer in and around the prostate, these nerves are damaged or destroyed. Although it is usually possible to avoid the nerves during surgery, surgeons may remove the nerves intentionally for fear that they may contain cancer cells that have spread from the prostate. Removing the nerves may prevent the cancer from spreading.

Because the most common and troubling harms of surgery have to do with two basic bodily functions, the ability to control one's bladder and to have sex, there is a good possibility of suffering at least some erectile dysfunction (impotence) or urinary incontinence as a result of the surgery.

Erectile problems are almost inevitable unless a nerve-sparing technique is successfully used. Whether or not this technique can be used, however, is usually not known going into the surgery. It depends on the location and characteristics of the tumor that are found during surgery, however; there is a chance that a planned nerve-sparing approach will have to be converted into the more-damaging wide excision during the procedure to make sure that the entire tumor is removed.

Of all men who have adequate erectile function prior to surgery, regardless of age or stage, over half can expect some erectile difficulties after surgery. The range of probability is about 25 to 85 out of 100 men experiencing problems. Younger (under 60), healthy men who have nerve-sparing surgery have the best chance of maintaining sexual function—about 75 out of 100 will regain sexual function, although recovery may take a year. The chance of having persisting erectile problems increases with age and the extent of disease, but there are medical and surgical treatments available to induce erections, and erectile difficulties do not interfere with libido or the sensation of orgasm.

Continue Learning about Erectile Dysfunction Causes

What Are the Causes of Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?
What Are the Causes of Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?
Does Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction Ever Include Surgery?
Does Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction Ever Include Surgery?
What Medications Are Used to Treat Erectile Dysfunction?
What Medications Are Used to Treat Erectile Dysfunction?
Does Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Does Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.