Surgery to the prostate can cause problems getting or keeping an erection (called erectile dysfunction or ED). This is caused by damage to the nerves and blood vessels close to the prostate that help you get an erection. Surgeons can do operations in a way that tries to protect these nerves or blood vessels. This is called a nerve-sparing technique. But this is only possible if the cancer has not spread outside the prostate. During the operation, if the surgeon thinks the nerves or surrounding structures have cancer in them, they will remove some or all of the nerves.
Whether you will have problems getting an erection after a nerve-sparing operation depends on different factors, such as:
- whether you had erection problems before treatment
- your age
- whether you have any other medical conditions, such as diabetes
- whether you are having treatment for high blood pressure
- whether the surgeon was able to spare some or all of the nerves.
You can ask your surgeon about your risk of ED.
Some men who have surgery may find their ability to have an erection slowly returns. But it may take 1 or 2 years for this to happen. It is less likely to return in men who have further treatment after surgery, such as hormonal therapy or radiotherapy.
We have more information about things you can try to help get an erection.