Cancer charity discuss Erectile Dysfunction risk after prostate cancer

sad manThe UK-based charity Macmillan Cancer Support have spoken on an already long-established subject and one which Medical Specialists Pharmacy have already covered several times – the relationship between prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction (ED).

Prostate cancer develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system and if left untreated it can kill – claiming roughly 10,000 lives every year in the UK alone.

ED (male impotence) is a common condition whereby a man struggled to achieve or maintain an erection satisfactory for sex and is believed to affect around four in 10 males over the age of 40. Unfortunately, it is a typical inadvertent side effect not from the cancer itself, but from the resulting treatment methods for prostate cancer such as surgical removal of the entire prostate gland, radiotherapy (external via an external-beam or radioactive seed implants) and hormone therapy.

According to Macmillan, there are around 160,000 men in the UK who are currently being treated for prostate cancer that also suffer from ED, and many patients state as they underwent their cancer treatment it became difficult or even impossible to maintain their erection. In fact, Macmillan Cancer Support officials claim that two out of every three prostate cancer patients complain that their treatment has left them unable to get an erection. Rising cancer rates mean that by the year 2030, the number of cases of ED from such treatment could potentially double.

Professor Jane Maher, chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “These figures highlight a major issue facing prostate cancer patients after treatment. The sheer volume of men affected shows the need for careful discussions before treatment. Many can be helped through early intervention and better support for men living with or beyond prostate cancer. Macmillan has worked closely with the NHS to develop a number of services to support cancer survivors after treatment. Some are already in place, but it is vital these services are implemented across the UK so men are not left isolated with this issue.”

To help these particular men, Macmillan now want a framework in place for the creation of a psychological support network in addition to specialised nurses –  trained to assist in issues related to ED. The charity also stress that there should be a higher number of physiotherapists being offered to patients.

Coincidentally, it was only a few months ago when a study emerged that suggested the ED medication Viagra could help sexual function for prostate cancer patients, with a daily dose of 50mg sildenafil citrate (Viagra’s active ingredient) being found to have ‘improved overall sexual function, including improved erectile function’ according to its lead author Dr Michael Zelefsky, vice chair for clinical research programs in the department of radiation oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Cancer Center.

Dr. Daria Bonanno, a consulting clinical psychologist funded by Macmillan, commented on possible reasons why so many men who suffer with impotence problems still refuse to reach out for help, saying: “For many men with prostate cancer there is a certain stigma attached to talking about erectile dysfunction. Many may feel a sense of loss of masculinity and sadness around the inability to sustain an erection and will be reluctant to seek support. This can often cause them to emotionally isolate themselves from their partners and could make the issues worse.”

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