Erectile Aids: How Helpful Are They for Prostate Cancer Patients?

For many men who experience erectile difficulties after undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, erectile aids (EAs) such as oral medications (PDE5i), vacuum erection devices (VED), and intra-cavernosal injections (ICI) offer a means of achieving an erection post treatment. However, even though the majority of prostate cancer patients experience erectile difficulties for months, years, or indefinitely after treatment, some choose never to use EAs, and some who use EAs ultimately end up abandoning them.

Why is this? The authors of a recent Journal of Sexual Medicine study used a self-report survey including validated questionnaires to assess the use and perceptions of helpfulness of EAs, as well as the psychological and sexual well-being of 260 North American men who had been treated for prostate cancer. They found the following:

Interestingly, the lesser used ICI treatments were generally perceived to be more helpful for participants than the more widely used oral medications and VED. While the majority of the participants had used PDE5i, approximately 30% reported it to be helpful, and an even smaller proportion of the VED users (22.8%) found the treatment to be helpful. In contrast, 57% of those who tried ICI found the injections to be helpful.

Through an open-ended question (“Do you have any other comments about the use of these treatments (oral medications, vacuum erection device, penile injection, etc.)?”) the researchers unearthed reasons why participants were satisfied/dissatisfied with EAs.

According to the results of this study, the men who tried EAs and found them unhelpful reported poorer psychological and sexual well-being than those who had never tried EAs and those who had tried EAs and found them helpful.

This group’s discouragement with EAs could potentially be mitigated through enhanced pre- and post-treatment patient education efforts. When a person has realistic expectations of the benefits and possible drawbacks of treatment, they are better equipped to make informed health decisions for themselves. Additionally, EA experiences could be improved through ongoing, case-specific problem-solving approaches in which the patient could work with a provider to address any issues that may arise.


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