"Before nerve-sparing prostatectomy [surgical removal of the prostate], 100 percent of men would have erectile dysfunction afterward," Gilbert said. "That has come down quite a bit. But you are dealing with a population of men who are generally not 30 or 40 years old. They're older and may already have an underlying problem with erectile dysfunction."
Most men have some level of erection difficulties after prostate cancer surgery, experts said.
In addition to dealing with that, "the counseling program focused on the woman's right to pleasure in sex and on fixing problems like postmenopausal vaginal dryness or loss of desire related to poor sexual communication," Schover said.
"We educated both partners about available treatments to restore erections and had them complete a 'decision aid' to figure out what treatment to try, based on mutual opinions," she said. "If that treatment did not work well for them, we encouraged them to try another choice."
After prostrate cancer, many men try pills for erectile dysfunction, experts said. But those may not be enough. Other options include penile injections, vacuum pumps and or penile implants, but Schover said she suspects many men throw in the towel when they don't get the results they want and don't pursue the other alternatives.
Men and women were given questionnaires that asked about a wide variety of measures of sexual function and sexual satisfaction, including their erectile function (for men), ability to achieve orgasm and their level of desire.
"Every subscale improved except desire, which we weren't surprised by because very few had low desire to begin with, so there wasn't that far to go on that," Schover said.
Men's ability to achieve "near-normal" erections also improved after counseling. Before counseling, about 12 percent to 15 percent of men reported few erection difficulties. That increased to between 36 percent and 44 percent for
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