Tips for Managing Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is the inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection during sexual encounters. ED is a common sexual side effect of cancer and cancer treatments that can affect you at any point during your care. In addition, medications used in the treatment of depression, high blood pressure, and hormone health can cause shifts in the way that you achieve and maintain erections. 

ED is complex, with many factors contributing, including mood, anxiety, and depression. ED can be a sensitive topic to discuss, and can bring on many feelings of embarrassment, vulnerability, identify shifts, and more.  

While causes of erectile dysfunction may vary, we have compiled a list of tips to help you navigate the complexities of ED. 

  • Communication is key. Talk with your medical team about any sexual side effects you are experiencing. Depending on the type of cancer treatment you have had, additional support may be necessary. 

  • Mental health therapy is an option. If you are struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression, this may be affecting your ability to achieve and maintain an erection. Addressing these concerns may help in managing ED. Our Iris mental health team is available to help with any questions you may have. 

  • Experiment with different methods of self-pleasure. You may find new sensations and ways to appreciate your body and sexual pleasures. 

  • Medications. There are several medications available to help patients struggling with erectile dysfunction. These medications include oral drugs, penile injections, or a urethral suppository. If your ED is a result of hormonal imbalances, testosterone therapy may be an option.  

  • Penile rehabilitation may be necessary. Depending on the cause of your ED, your provider may recommend erectile rehabilitation. This may include the use of medication to achieve an erection while setting a goal of 2-3 erections a week. 

  • A vacuum constriction device (VCD) may help. VCDs are an external pump that help achieve and maintain an erection with a constriction band. Talk to your doctor before using a VCD to make sure you are a candidate. 

  • Surgery is an alternative when other methods do not work. The use of a penile implant/protheses may be a permanent solution to managing ED. A consultation visit with a urologist can help you work through the pros and cons of this procedure. 

The Iris Care team is here to help. Our nurses are available 24/7 via phone call to answer any questions you may have regarding your cancer-related symptoms.  

For more information, check out Sexual Health after a Cancer Diagnosis