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Study Says Viagra Can Help Men After Prostate Cancer

Researchers have found that regular treatment with sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, helps men regain erectile function after prostate cancer. The ED drug’s beneficial effects have been documented both after surgery and radiation therapy.

Except for skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in American men.

In 2018, the American Cancer Society predicts that 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed. Approximately one in every nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Sixty percent of cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in men over 65, with the average age at diagnosis being 66. Though prostate cancer can be quite serious, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer die of some other cause. Surgical removal of the prostate and radiation therapy are the main ways the disease is treated.

Erectile dysfunction following treatment for prostate cancer is common. Around 65 percent of men treated for prostate cancer develop ED, which can cause prostate cancer patients anxiety, relationship tension, and loss of self-confidence. After radiation therapy, the incidence of ED in prostate cancer patients increases 40 percent, and in men treated with radiation therapy who also have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, the risk of ED after radiation for prostate cancer goes up to around 75 percent. After surgical removal of the prostate, around 80 percent of patients suffer ED due to damage to critical nerves.

Viagra After Prostate Surgery

Viagra speeds postsurgical erectile rehabilitation.

David Samadi, M.D., chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, routinely recommends oral ED medications like Viagra after prostate surgery. Though modern prostate surgery techniques are designed to leave nerves as unaffected as possible, Samadi believes that Viagra after prostate surgery can actually play an important role in erectile rehabilitation.  Samadi told GlobeNewswire: “Sexual recovery after prostate cancer surgery is equal parts effort, confidence, and intimacy. A little boost from Viagra or other ED medications goes a long way.”

A recent clinical study shows that Samadi’s recommendation is sound. Fifty-one men were prescribed either 50 or 100 milligrams of Viagra every night for nine months, beginning four weeks after prostate surgery. Twenty-five men were given a placebo for that same time period. Regardless of dosage, 27 percent of the men who took Viagra regained erectile functioning equal to what they had before surgery, while only 4 percent of the men taking placebo reported full recovery of erectile functioning. Researcher Harin Padma-Nathan of the University of Southern California said, “The results are so dramatic that every man undergoing prostatectomy should consider this if he is interested in preserving erections.”

Viagra After Radiation Therapy

A paper published in The Journal of Urology reported encouraging results in men who took Viagra following radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer. The 279 study participants, all of whom had localized prostate cancer treated with radiotherapy, were treated either with sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) or a placebo starting three days before radiation therapy and continuing daily for six months. The participants completed survey tools about sexual functioning at 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months after the radiation therapy.

After 12 months, the participants taking sildenafil reported fewer problems with erectile dysfunction and greater sexual satisfaction overall. After 24 months, though erectile functioning scores from men taking the placebo had mostly caught up with scores of men taking sildenafil, the men who had taken sildenafil still reported better overall sexual satisfaction.

How Can Viagra Do All This?

Viagra is one of the most researched drugs in the world, yet medical researchers don’t always know exactly how Viagra works in treating some conditions other than ED (like menstrual cramps and altitude sickness). Likewise, researchers aren’t exactly sure how Viagra helps preserve sexual functioning in men who have had prostate surgery, although researcher Padma-Nathan says that previous research in animals indicates that Viagra might actually help repair nerves damaged during surgery. How Viagra helps men who have undergone radiation therapy for prostate cancer is also unclear, but the results have been significant enough to make doctors take notice.

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Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+