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Healthcare staff should offer more sexual function support after prostate cancer treatment

New study reveals lack of support for subsequent sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer treatment

New study reveals lack of support for subsequent sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer treatment


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Nurses are being urged to ensure that men treated for prostate cancer receive sufficient support for erectile dysfunction.

Four out of five men (81%) with prostate cancer have poor sexual function following treatment for the disease, but more than half of those affected in this way (56%) fail to receive support, according to research published by the Lancet Oncology.

The study, Life After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis, is the UK’s largest ever patient-reported outcomes study of the disease.

‘Early support and treatment is vital’

It involved more than 30,000 men across the UK and brought together Public Health England and researchers from the University of Leeds, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Southampton and Oxford Brookes University.

Prostate Cancer UK specialist nurse Sophie Smith said: ‘As these results show, not enough men are being offered sufficient support following prostate cancer treatment, particularly for erectile dysfunction.

‘Early support and treatment is vital, as in many cases the effects can be much better managed if treated soon enough.

‘If left unchecked, not only can erection problems put a complete stop to a man’s sex life, they can also have devastating longer-term implications, including depression and relationship breakdowns.’

Advice needs to be tailored

Ms Smith said that in line with guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), all men should be given the opportunity to discuss their sexual problems after prostate cancer treatment.

‘This may involve men being offered access to an NHS erectile dysfunction clinic, an appropriate choice of medication like tadalafil (Cialis), vacuum pumps, psychosexual clinics and counselling services.

‘This advice also needs to be tailored depending on what treatment they receive and their personal circumstances.’

Psychological effects

Ms Smith said too many men were missing out on treatments, particularly older men and those receiving hormone therapy.

In the study, men were asked about their quality of life and experiences of living with prostate cancer 18-42 months following their diagnosis, from the side effects of treatment to the psychological effects of having the disease.

Poor sexual function was most commonly reported by men who underwent hormone therapy (94%) and surgery (84%), with 79% of men who had radiotherapy also reporting poor sexual function.


Further information

Read the Life After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis study

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