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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1995 Apr 30;32(1):33-9.

Decreased sexual capacity after external radiation therapy for prostate cancer impairs quality of life.

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  • 1Department of Cancer Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



The aim of this study was to assess to what extent patients treated with radiation therapy for prostate cancer experience change in sexual functioning and to what extent this effects quality of life.


Information was provided by 53 men treated with radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer. Assessment was made with the "Radiumhemmets Scale of Sexual Functioning," which measures sexual desire, erectile capacity, orgasm, and to what extent a decrease in any of these aspects of sexual functioning affects quality of life. Function before treatment was assessed retrospectively.


Sexual desire diminished among 77% after treatment. The erection stiffness decreased in 77%. Before external radiation therapy, 66% had an erection usually sufficient for intercourse. Half of the men lost this ability after treatment. Of those retaining orgasm after treatment, 47% reported a decreased orgasmic pleasure and 91% a reduced ejaculation volume. Of all men, 50% reported that quality of life had decreased much or very much due to a decline in the erectile capacity following external radiation therapy.


The results of the present study indicate that external radiation therapy for prostate cancer is associated with a reduction in sexual desire, erectile capacity, and organism functions. In a majority of patients this reduces quality of life. Previously, we may have underestimated the importance an intact sexual function has for the quality of life in this patient category of elderly men.

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