Sexual dysfunction is very common after treatment of prostate cancer. Radiation therapy together with radical prostatectomy is the most effective treatment for localized disease. Percentages of erectile dysfunction (ED) reported in prospective studies after external-beam radiotherapy (RT) vary from 60-70%, and these are similar after brachytherapy. In randomized trials more realistic percentages of 30-40% are reported. Modern techniques do not seem to decrease post-radiation ED. No final conclusions can be drawn whether or not the radiation dose to the penile structures correlates with post-radiation ED in patients treated for prostate cancer. The etiology of ED after RT of prostate cancer is most probably multi-factorial. The phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5-I) sildenafil and tadalafil have been shown to be effective to treat post-radiation ED in about half of the patients in randomized trials. Patients and their partners need to be adequately counselled on the effects of cancer treatment on their sexual life and relationship, and about the different treatment possibilities. Sexual counselling has not become yet a routine part of oncology care in most hospitals, but this should be provided. Due to the lack of robust data, prevention of post-radiation ED with PDE5-I cannot be recommended so far.

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Translational Andrology and Urology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam