Q. I am 78 years old – and was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and had surgery. My question is, will the operation affect my sex drive? I’m in a relationship and I’m worried now that should I be called on to take things further, I’ll not be able to. The doctors and nurses didn’t say anything to me about it. Maybe they don’t think at my age I care?
A. You are absolutely right to ask this question. It should have been addressed before you decided to have the operation, along with all the other possible risks of surgery.
The important nerves that allow sexual function for a man run very close to the prostate gland, which sits just below the bladder and is about the size of a walnut.
Surgery to remove the prostate, known as a radical prostatectomy, often results in some damage to these nerves.
After prostate surgery, it can take anything from a few months to two years for sexual function to return, and it may not be as strong as before (file photo)
It’s very common for this procedure to cause erectile dysfunction, at least in the short to medium term. This does depend on the extent of the surgery and the size and position of the tumour in relation to these vital nerves.
It’s such a key issue in prostate surgery that I’m surprised it was not discussed.
At this stage, I would talk to your GP – they’ll be able to find out more about exactly how the operation you had was carried out, and what you can expect in terms of getting back to normal. After prostate surgery, it can take anything from a few months to two years for sexual function to return, and it may not be as strong as before.
There are many options to help. As well as a different range of tablets (there are four you can try), there are vacuum pumps, injections and creams: as someone who has had surgery, you could be seen at a specialised erectile dysfunction service.
In terms of your ‘drive’, surgery itself doesn’t dampen desire – however, other medications given to men with prostate cancer change hormone levels, and reduced libido can be a side effect.
It’s also important to be reassured that there are many ways to enjoy sexual intimacy, even if erectile dysfunction is a problem.
Email [email protected] or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.
Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies.
If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.
Q. Six months ago I was a fit healthy 73-year-old keeping fit with Pilates, power hooping (a keep-fit class involving hoola-hoops) and walking. But then I began to experience painful cramps in my legs, neck and shoulders, and pins and needles in my arms. It’s worse at night, and they wake me up at night. I have seen four GPs and I’m waiting for an appointment with a rheumatologist. Is there anything I could be prescribed to ease my symptoms in the meantime?
A. These are significant symptoms and certainly warrant specialist review. Such a dramatic change in your health as well as pain that wakes you at night would be considered red flags for disease.
On the other hand,