Intended for healthcare professionals


Erectile dysfunction after treatment for colorectal cancer

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 18 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6366
  1. Larissa K F Temple, colorectal surgeon
  1. 1Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York, NY 10065, USA
  1. templel{at}

Is common, but under-recognised and undertreated

Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer among men. Fortunately, advances in cancer treatment have improved outcomes and survival. In general, patients treated for colorectal cancer report good quality of life. However, particularly in patients with rectal cancer, quality of life can subsequently be affected by bowel, bladder, and sexual problems.1 Bowel dysfunction is most common, but sexual function is also often substantially affected. In the linked qualitative study, Dowswell and colleagues assess erectile dysfunction in men after treatment for colorectal cancer (doi:10.1136/bmj.d5824).2

Erectile dysfunction in these patients has not been well described. Given the median age of men with this disease, comorbidities and life stage are likely to be associated. Data suggest, however, that sexual function is uniquely affected, particularly in patients with rectal cancer.3 4 5 6 7 A recent population based study reported that sexual function in men treated for colon cancer was significantly worse than in the general population,8 and more impaired in patients who did not receive chemotherapy. The causes were, however, largely unknown.

Erectile dysfunction is often reported among men who …

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