Sexual Dysfunction from Prostate Cancer
Men treated for prostate cancer not infrequently suffer some degree of sexual dysfunction (specifically lower libido) related to their prostate cancer and its treatment. Current research suggests that exercise might reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
And, now it appears that exercise improves sexual function in men treated for prostate cancer. This is not surprising as exercise has been shown to prevent and minimize side effects of treatment in other cancers.
Prostate cancer treatment includes surgery, radiation, and hormone manipulation (the intentional lowering of testosterone which leads to loss of masculinity). All of these can adversely affect sexual function in men being treated for prostate cancer.
Sexual dysfunction in these cases is typically treated with penile implants, erectile function drugs, and injections none of which are highly desirable.
It is believed that anxiety, depression, loss of masculinity, and fatigue are at the basis of lower libido in men with prostate cancer.
Researchers from Edith Cowan University’s Health and Wellness Institute recently showed an association between exercise and libido in men being treated for prostate cancer. Their study was published in Nature Reviews Urology.
They studied 55 men being treated for prostate cancer. Half the men were enrolled in a 3 month exercise program involving moderate to high intensity resistance training and aerobic exercise (walking, cycling, and rowing) performed twice a week. The other half did no exercise and simply received conventional prostate cancer treatment.
At the end of the three months 17% of men in the exercise group reported better libido while no one in the control group did. They speculated that exercise makes men stronger, feel better (more energetic), more masculine, and less stressed leading to improved libido.
This is very encouraging and gives hope to men who suffer from sexual dysfunction related to prostate cancer.
Exercise also reduces the risk of co-morbid conditions that contribute to lower libido. These include heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
The study’s researchers are planning on a larger trial of 160 men and will attempt to explain the reasons why exercise improves sexual function in men being treated for prostate cancer.
Exercise improves production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide improves blood flow and improves erectile function. Exercise also relieves stress and is effective as some antidepressants in the treatment of depression. These are probably two reasons why exercise improves sexual function.