For men, anything involving the prostate can come with fears about what it can mean for their sexual health. While every situation is different, a common concern when undergoing treatment for the prostate or prostate cancer is whether the nerves surrounding the prostate will be impaired, and thus will they experience erectile dysfunction. Here, we explore nerve regeneration after prostate surgery and what to expect when returning to an active and satisfying sex life.
Understanding nerve damage.
First, it’s important to understand that some degree of sexual dysfunction is expected. In fact, sources say the rate of erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer treatment can be as high as 85%, depending on the situation. This can be the result of low testosterone levels from hormone therapy. Or it can be caused by damage to the nerves near the prostate, compromised blood flow, and damage to the nerves that control the flow of semen – all this as a result of the actual surgical treatment. The amount of damage that occurs depends on the extent of the procedure, the skill of the surgeon, and whether it was an intentionally “nerve-sparing” procedure.” Still, whether you undergo surgery, radiation or even hormone therapy, ED is to be expected, but it can still be overcome.
Understanding the situation.
An important thing to keep in mind throughout your prostate cancer experience is to talk to your doctor about your particular situation and what to expect. Many men are so overwhelmed (understandably) with the cancer diagnosis that they don’t completely take in how the treatment can affect something they’ve always taken for granted. As a result, they can experience additional stress, anxiety or lack of confidence. All this can be addressed by having open conversations with your doctor and gaining a comprehensive understanding about sex after prostate cancer.
From there, you can discuss options and set out to create realistic expectations.
Promoting penile healing.
One path to recovery is to promote circulation to the penis and start to heal the penile tissues. While this does not specifically lead to nerve regeneration after prostate surgery, it does strengthen the nerves that are remaining and set you on a path to recovery.
To do this, oral medications like Viagra or Cialis can help, although they may not be an option based on your medical history or your tolerance to side effects. Also, they may not be preferred if you’re on other medications or you simply don’t want to ingest something else into your system.
Another option is vacuum therapy or a penis pump. This device is a non-medical, non-invasive, safe way to start rehabilitating the penis on your own terms. A penis pump can be used with your partner or on your own. With it, you use vacuum suction to gently draw blood into the penis creating an erection. Once the erection is achieved a support ring is placed around the base of the penis, holding the erection in place. Even if not used for sex, the penis pump can get the blood flowing and start to restore your penile strength.
Nerve regeneration after prostate surgery.
While it is not widely reported, researchers have investigated therapies to address the nerve damage caused by prostate cancer surgery. In one study reported in Science News, it was found that damaged nerves surrounding the prostate can actually be regenerated “more quickly with a finding called sonic hedgehog delivered via a nanofiber gel.” Data is limited, but it holds promise for men undergoing prostate cancer surgery and having concerns about quality of life after treatment.
Prostate cancer and its treatment is a lot to go through, but understanding your risk of ED and your path to recovery can help. For more information, browse our blogs and check out our Comprehensive Guide to Sex after Prostate Removal.