If you’ve underdone surgery for prostate cancer, it is likely that you’re experiencing—or anticipating—some level of erectile dysfunction. But, a question you and many men often have is: Till when? How long after prostate surgery does impotence last? Here, we explore the effects of prostate cancer on sexual health and help set expectations to keep you positive and looking forward.
Understanding the cause.
It’s a misperception that prostate cancer causes ED. In actuality, it’s the prostate cancer treatment that’s the main cause. Sources say, whether you undergo hormone therapy, radiation therapy, or radical prostatectomy, you are at risk of damaging the nerves, blood vessels, or muscles around the prostate gland, which are needed to create and sustain an erection.
How long that lasts depends on the treatment. For example, with hormone therapy, you lower the amount of testosterone in your body. This means that you may experience changes in both your sex drive and your performance. You may be able to get an erection, but you may lose interest in sex. Or, you may still want sex, but you might have difficulties getting an erection. The circumstances vary by each man.
With radiation therapy, you may not experience ED at first, but over time the dependability and firmness of your erections may be reduced. And, with a radical prostatectomy, signs of ED may start immediately and can last a few weeks, months, or even a year or more. Prognosis is improved if you undergo nerve‑sparing prostatectomy, and this can vary based on the skill of the surgeon and the extent of the surgical treatment.
Considering this news, it can be easy to be disheartened. Indeed, experts assert that nearly all men will experience some ED for the first months after prostate cancer treatment. However, these same experts say that within one year after treatment, nearly all men who have intact nerves will see “substantial improvements.”
Understanding what men everywhere experience after prostate cancer surgery can help you “reframe” your recovery. Your body is healing, and the question of how long after prostate surgery does impotence last varies by every man. The important thing is to slow down and recognize that you will likely have sex again. It’s just going to take some time.
During your recovery, focus on other forms of sex and intimacy. Based on the Comprehensive Guide to Sex after Prostate Removal, sex does not just mean intercourse, and intimacy doesn’t have to come from sex. Explore activities like touch and massage, spend quality time with your partner, or just cuddle. Also, keep in mind: An erection is not necessary to have an orgasm.
If a solid erection is still the name of the game, there are things you can do to start the rehabilitation process. This mainly means improving blood flow to the penis to restore penile tissues. This can be done on your own or with a partner. The trick is to arouse your body, stimulate the flow of blood to the penis, and then let that blood engorge the penis making an erection.
A tool many men have success with for rebuilding penile strength is vacuum therapy. Vacuum therapy (or a penis pump) can be used to gently draw blood into the penis, forming an erection. From there, a support ring is placed around the base of the penis, holding the erection in place.
With this functionality, there are several opportunities for experimentation throughout your recovery. You can use the pump to just gently promote circulation, defamiliarizing your body with the feel of sex. You can use it to practice getting and maintaining erections. Or you can use it with your partner as a tool for your lovemaking.
The answer to the question of how long after prostate surgery does impotence last varies by every man. But the prognosis is favorable, and there are tools to help rebuild that strength and shorten the duration of ED. To learn more, browse our blogs, and check out the Comprehensive Guide to Sex After Prostate Removal.