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There are 160,000 men living with prostate cancer in the UK who cannot have a full sex life, estimates Macmillan Cancer Support1 - with two in three (63%) unable to get an erection2.
Macmillan warns this issue will only get worse as an increasing number of men with prostate cancer now receive surgery, radiotherapy and hormone treatment – all of which can cause erectile dysfunction.
As the number of men living with prostate cancer in the UK is set to more than double by 2030 – from over 250,000 today to 620,0003 - this could lead to an estimated 390,000 men with prostate cancer unable to get an erection by 20303.
Jim Andrews, 63, a prostate cancer survivor from London, says:
'My reaction when I was told I had prostate cancer was whether it would kill me. The thought of libido killing drugs and sexual dysfunction still seemed minor in comparison to the alternative. By the time I realised I was likely to survive, my sex life had been destroyed. I was devastated. It was not a subject that any professional talked to me about. It’s been a lonely journey as no one talks about it.'
Erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer can be caused by the surgery used to treat the cancer. Damage to the nerves during surgery can affect the blood supply to the penis which will leave some men unable to maintain an erection.
The effects of this on different men can vary, for some there is permanent damage while for others this is easily treatable. Radiotherapy and hormonal treatment can also sometimes cause temporary or permanent erection problems by affecting the nerves in the surrounding area.
Professor Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
'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.'
Dr Daria Bonanno, Macmillan Consultant Clinical Psychologist, who helps prostate cancer patients who are having difficulties enjoying their sex lives, says:
'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.'
Over 40,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year and that’s why Macmillan is encouraging men to put aside their embarrassment and seek help from their GPs or Macmillan for support around sex and cancer.
No one should face cancer alone. The Macmillan team is here to support you every step of the way. For more information or to donate visit www.macmillan.org.uk| or call 0808 808 00 00.
Cora Bauer, Assistant Media and PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2016 (out of hours 07801 307068)
1 63% of men with prostate cancer said not at all to the question “I am able to have and maintain an erection.” According to the Department of Health. Quality of Life of Cancer Survivors in England – Report on a pilot survey using Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMS). December 2012. The pilot survey was conducted in three cancer registries in England (West Midlands, East of England, and Thames). We assume for the purposes of this release that the results from these three pilot areas apply to England and the UK as a whole. Assuming that this proportion applies to all men who are alive in the UK and have ever had a diagnosis of prostate cancer (255,000 in 2010 – see footnote 5) we estimate that around 160,000 men could be affected.
2 Department of Health. Quality of Life of Cancer Survivors in England – Report on a pilot survey using Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMS). December 2012. The survey included c.800 men with prostate cancer, sampled from three cancer registries in England – West Midlands, East of England, and Thames.
3 Maddams J, Utley M, Møller H. Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010-2040. Br J Cancer 2012; 107: 1195-1202. We estimate the number who could be affected by 2030 as defined in footnote 1 but applied to prevalence figures for 2030.
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