Health advice

Cancer treatment and erectile dysfunction

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Having treatment for cancer can cause side effects, including erectile dysfunction (ED).

If you’ve been diagnosed with a urological cancer such as prostate cancer, bladder cancer or testicular cancer, you may have treatment that could cause ED.1,2

Prostate cancer and ED

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in the UK - 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives.3 Your risk of getting prostate cancer increases with age, but you’re also more likely to get it if you’re black or if your father or brother has had it.3 Read more about prostate cancer on the Prostate Cancer UK website.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a urological cancer, for example prostate, kidney or bladder cancer, you may have had, or be about to have, treatment. Your treatment may involve surgery to remove the prostate (radical prostatectomy) or radiotherapy to your pelvic area. These treatments may damage blood vessels and tissue in your penis and pelvic area. This can cause ED - difficulty getting and keeping an erection.

What treatments are available to help my ED?

If you have, or you’re worried about, erection problems talk to your doctor or specialist nurse at the hospital. You may be referred to an ED clinic. ED is a very common side effect of cancer treatment and health professionals will have experience of supporting people with ED. Talk to them about your own situation and what treatments might be right for you. Remember that it may take a while to find a treatment that works well.

The most commonly known type of treatment for ED is medicine such as Viagra or sildenafil. It’s usually fine to take ED medication at the same time, or after, having cancer treatment. But Viagra and sildenafil may not be suitable if you have other health conditions, such as heart problems.4

Remember to always ask a pharmacist or talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any questions about the medicine you’re taking. Including, how medicine for ED may interact with other medicines you’re taking.

Dealing with cancer and ED

If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, or you’re having treatment for cancer, you may be dealing with a lot of different emotions such as shock, sadness, anger and worry. This is normal, and all of these emotions can affect how you think and feel about sex. Feeling this way may reduce your libido (desire for sex) and cause symptoms of ED.

Talking about how you feel or writing down your thoughts can be helpful. Some people find it helps to talk to a professional, such as a psychologist or a counsellor. You might want to try this as well as taking medication for ED. Ask your doctor or nurse to refer you, or refer yourself through the NHS.

Where can I get further support and information?

As well as talking to your GP for information and support, there are also a number of organisations and charities offering support and information.

Bowel Cancer UK
020 7940 1760
Information about how bowel cancer can affect your sex life.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
01455 883 300
Find a registered counsellor or psychologist near you.

Cancer Research UK
0808 800 4040
Information about managing erection problems after cancer treatment.

Macmillan Cancer Support
0808 808 0000
Information about how to manage male pelvic side effects of cancer treatment.

0300 123 1801
Support when you have cancer.

NHS website
Information about erectile dysfunction, treatment options and support.

Prostate Cancer UK
0800 074 8383
Information about erection problems, sex and relationships, and a Specialist Nurse service.

Sexual Advice Association
Information for men about erectile dysfunction.

ED treatments are available in our online clinic

A private and secure way to get prescription treatments delivered to you without the need for a GP appointment.

Find out more

Smiling man in burgundy shirt is holding a phone and leaning against a the table
  1. Male pelvic side effects and your sex life | Accessed September 4, 2020.
  2. Sex and relationships | Prostate Cancer UK | Accessed September 4, 2020.
  3. About prostate cancer | Prostate Cancer UK | Accessed September 4, 2020.
  4. Viagra 100 mg film-coated tablets - Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) - (emc). Accessed September 4, 2020.

Published: October 2022
Next review: October 2024
Reviewed by: Mital Thakrar, Pharmacist

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