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Cancer. 2002 Oct 15;95(8):1773-85.

Defining sexual outcomes after treatment for localized prostate carcinoma.

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Department of Behavioral Science, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas77030-4009, USA.



The objective of this survey was to identify factors associated with good sexual outcomes in a large group of survivors of localized prostate carcinoma.


A postal survey was sent to 2636 men in the Cleveland Clinic Foundation's Prostate Cancer Registry who either were treated with definitive radiotherapy or underwent prostatectomy for localized prostate carcinoma. The survey asked about demographic items, past and current sexual functioning, partner's sexual function and health, and a number of factors hypothesized to affect sexual satisfaction. Standardized questionnaires included the Sexual Self-Schema Scale-Male Version, the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), urinary and bowel symptom scales from the Los Angeles Prostate Cancer Index, and the Short Form Health Survey (SF-36).


The return rate was 49%, yielding a sample of 1236 men at an average of 4.3 years post-treatment. Comparing responders with nonresponders suggested that the sample may have been somewhat biased toward men who were more interested in maintaining sexual function. At the time they were diagnosed with prostate carcinoma, 36% of men had erectile dysfunction (ED). Within the past 6 months, however, 85% of men reported having ED. Only 13% of men were having reliable, firm erections spontaneously, and another 8% of men were having erections with the aid of a medical treatment. Men were as distressed about loss of desire and trouble having satisfying orgasms as they were about ED. Of the 84% of men who reported having a current sexual partner, 66% indicated that she had a sexual problem. Younger age was associated strongly with better sexual outcome (global IIEF score). With demographic factors taken into account, better sexual outcome was related significantly to medical factors, including not having neoadjuvant or current antiandrogen therapy, undergoing bilateral nerve-sparing prostatectomy or brachytherapy, and having better mental and physical health composite scores on the SF-36. Sexual factors that were associated with a better outcome included having normal erections before treatment for prostate carcinoma, choosing a treatment based on the hope that it would preserve sexual function, having more sexual partners in the past year, and having a sexually functional partner.


The great majority of men who survive prostate carcinoma do not achieve a return to functional sexual activity in the years after treatment. The priorities a man places on sexuality and on having a sexually functional partner are important factors in sexual satisfaction at follow-up, over and above the influence of age and medical factors.

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