Can You Get Erections After Prostate Cancer Treatment?

If you have ever wondered whether you'll be able to have an erection after prostate cancer treatment, you are not alone. Many men who are facing a prostate cancer diagnosis, or who have undergone prostate cancer treatment, are worried about whether or not they will be able to have an erection after prostate cancer.

Man sitting on an exam room table
Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images

What Is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer develops in the prostate—a small gland that makes seminal fluid. It is the second most common type of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows over time and in the beginning stays within the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that is caught early has a better chance of successful treatment.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine
  • Blood in the semen
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction

Erection After Prostate Cancer Treatment

Following prostate cancer treatment of any kind, it is a possibility that you will no longer be able to have an erection. If you are unable to have an erection following treatment, this condition may last only for a short time or could be permanent.

All of the currently available, potentially curative treatment options for prostate cancer can result in temporary or permanent erectile dysfunction (ED), though many men who undergo treatment for prostate cancer see little or no ill effects to their erectile function. Radiation therapy, prostate surgery, cryotherapy, hormone therapy, and others can all result in ED.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive way to determine which men will have ED following treatment. In general, men with vascular conditions, diabetes, obesity, or pre-existing erectile problems are at greater risk for ED.

Studies that have sought to determine the chance of men having ED following prostatectomy, radiation, and other prostate cancer treatments have resulted in widely varying numbers. Some studies seem to show that only a small percentage of men have long-standing issues with ED, while others have shown much higher numbers.

For men who have undergone prostatectomy, long-term ED has been seen in up to 67% percent of men, but some studies have shown that using medications such as Viagra may help to achieve erectile functioning.

Additionally, for men being treated with hormone deprivation therapy, the symptoms of ED often end after stopping the treatment.

It's important to keep in mind that even if you are faced with ED following prostate cancer treatment, all hope is not lost. Today, there are very effective treatments for ED, and many men can return to healthy sexual lives despite their ED.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United States Cancer Statistics: Data Visualizations. Leading cancer cases and deaths, male.

  2. American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer.

  3. Wassersug RJ, Westle A, Dowsett GW. Men's sexual and relational adaptations to erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer treatmentInt J Sex Health. 2016;29(1):69-79. doi:10.1080/19317611.2016.1204403.

  4. Ibrahim A, Ali M, Kiernan TJ, Stack AG. Erectile dysfunction and ischaemic heart disease. Eur Cardiol. 2018;13(2):98-103. doi:10.15420/ecr.2017.21.3

  5. Lovegrove CE, Ficarra V, Montorsi F, N'dow J, Salonia A, Minhas S. Sexual function outcomes following interventions for prostate cancer: are contemporary reports on functional outcomes misleading? Int J Impot Res. 2019. doi:10.1038/s41443-019-0220-1

  6. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Men's Health Watch. Penile rehabilitation after prostate cancer surgery.

By Matthew Schmitz, MD
Matthew Schmitz, MD, is a professional radiologist who has worked extensively with prostate cancer patients and their families.