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Can Colon Cancer Treatment Cause Erectile Dysfunction?


  • Erectile dysfunction is not one of the early symptoms of colon cancer.
  • Colon cancer treatments can cause erectile dysfunction and low sex drive.
  • How can colon cancer treatment cause erectile dysfunction?
  • The only way to discover colon cancer early is through regular screening.
  • Home colorectal cancer test kits offer a simple and cost-effective way to screen for the disease. 

Erectile dysfunction is not an early or later symptom of colon cancer. It is fairly safe to conclude that colon cancer itself doesn’t cause erectile dysfunction. But what about cancer treatment? Can colon cancer treatment cause erectile dysfunction?

Colon Cancer and ED

With prostate cancer, symptoms like painful ejaculation may occur, and, as the disease progresses, it may affect erectile function to some degree as well. 

The early signs and symptoms of colon cancer do not relate to sexual function. Fatigue, an early colon cancer symptom, may affect one’s sexual appetite and erectile function. However, there is no direct connection between early colon cancer and erectile function. 

Some of the early symptoms of colon cancer are: 

  • Persistent bloating, pain, and cramps
  • Changes in bowel movements and the consistency of the stool
  • Rectal bleeding or dark stool resulting from bleeding further up the colon
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • The sensation of full bowels even after a bowel movement

Colorectal cancer is extremely dangerous because in many cases, it produces no early symptoms. Sufferers don’t even know they have the disease. Erectile dysfunction only becomes a problem when doctors discover the disease and begin treating it. 

How Can Colon Cancer Treatment Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Cancer treatments, in general, affect the body in many ways. Their side effects are notorious and can impact erectile function. Some side effects of cancer treatment affecting sexual function are: 

  • The loss of erectile function
  • The loss of sexual appetite (libido)
  • Weak or semen-less orgasms
  • Painful sex
  • Difficulty in achieving an orgasm
  • Loss of interest in sexual activities
  • Feeling unattractive 

Colon cancer treatments fall into three main categories: 

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation treatment 

All three treatment types can cause side effects that diminish sexual enjoyment and erectile function. 

Colon Cancer Surgery and ED

Colon cancer surgery can range from simple colonoscopy to more extensive surgical interventions.

When your doctor removes a cancerous polyp through colonoscopy, you’re not likely to encounter any side effects.

If you have a large tumor in your colon that requires total pelvic exenteration, you’re looking at a radically different outcome. Patients who undergo this surgery have their prostate, bladder, rectum, and seminal vesicles removed. 

Doctors performing surgery
Surgery can affect your erections

Depending on the nature of the surgery, it can cause a range of physical, psychological, and sexual side effects. 

These can include:

  • Incontinence. Colon cancer surgery may result in the patient’s inability to control urination and bowel movements.
  • Scars. Extensive surgery may leave behind scars on the skin that the partner of the patient may find unattractive. The body image changes may affect the patient’s self-image and perceived sexual attractiveness.
  • Fatigue. Post-surgery fatigue may prompt the patient to refrain from social interaction. Not seeing other people rules out sexual interaction.
  • Nerve damage. Like prostate cancer surgery, colon cancer surgery can affect nerves involved in erections. This nerve damage may be permanent or temporary. Nerve damage may also reduce the sensitivity of the penis.
  • Changes to sexual patterns. A significant percentage of colon cancer surgeries end up requiring patients to wear a colostomy bag permanently. The appliance may hinder sexual activity in practical ways. Its psychological impact can also be significant. Wearing such a bag may put a damper on the sexual desire of the patient and/or the patient’s partner.
  • Fear of recurrence. A disease like colorectal cancer may cause patients lasting psychological trauma. The fear that they may have to face the ordeal again in the future can dampen sexual desire.

Chemotherapy for Colon Cancer and ED

Like surgery, chemotherapy has profound effects on the body. Sometimes, doctors may order chemotherapy after surgery to ensure that no cancerous cells remain active in the body. Thus, chemo’s side effects can stack on top of the side effects surgery may cause. 

  • Sensory changes. The chemicals doctors use to eliminate cancer cells can alter patients’ sense of smell, taste, and even touch. Changes of this nature may affect how one perceives and enjoys sexual activities.
  • Fatigue. Patients on chemotherapy often experience fatigue that robs them of the will to socialize and have sex.
  • Changes to sexual patterns. Drugs used for the treatment of colon cancer can trigger vomiting, changes in the way patients perceive taste, and fatigue. Any of these side effects can disrupt dating patterns and sexual behaviors.
  • Hormonal changes. Chemotherapy and the stress of the illness may lower the testosterone levels of survivors. Hypogonadism does not help with erectile function and can affect the quality of life in other ways.
  • Hair loss and thinning. Hair loss is one of the frequent side effects of chemotherapy. Losing hair on the head can be traumatic, but chemo may also cause the loss of pubic hair. The emotional distress resulting from hair loss may diminish sexual appetite and erectile function.
  • Permanent side effects. Some of the effects of chemotherapy on nerves can be permanent. Patients may experience permanent changes in penis sensitivity and sense of taste.    

Radiation Therapy for Colon Cancer and ED

Radiation therapy adds a few more reasons why colon cancer treatment can cause erectile dysfunction. The purpose of radiation therapy is to kill cancerous cells. In the process, it can cause damage to healthy cells as well. 

  • Vascular scarring. Radiation treatment in the pelvic area can result in vascular damage to the genitals. Vascular scarring decreases the blood flow to the penis, causing erectile dysfunction. ED medications like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis can help increase the blood flow and counter this type of damage.
  • Skin changes. Radiation therapy can cause changes in skin texture and color. These marks can hurt self-image and erotic attraction.
  • Fatigue. Like chemotherapy and surgery, radiation therapy can result in fatigue that can kill the mood for social interaction and sex.
  • Changes to sexual patterns. Fatigue can alter one’s sexual behaviors. With radiation therapy, diarrhea and incontinence may occur, further diminishing sexual appetite and erectile function.
  • Hair loss. Radiation therapy can cause hair loss at the site of the treatment. This type of hair loss may affect self-image and libido.
  • Permanent effects. Fibrosis can be a permanent consequence of radiation therapy. It can cause incontinence, which can further hinder sexual desire. 
Red blood cells
Vascular scarring can restrict the blood flow to the penis

The answer to the question “can colon cancer treatment cause erectile dysfunction?” is clear. All three mainstream treatment types can cause loss of sexual interest and erectile function in several ways. Sometimes, their erection-killing side effects can stack up. 

The only way to detect early colon cancer is through regular screening. Home colorectal cancer test kits offer an affordable and non-intrusive way to screen for colorectal cancer regularly. 

eDrugstore Carries Home Colorectal Cancer Test Kits

You can order our home colorectal cancer test kits online and receive them in the mail. Take the pain-free test, mail in your samples, and receive your results in two-to-five days. If your results are positive, eDrugstore offers you a free consultation with a U.S.-licensed doctor to address next steps.

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