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Almost 100,000 Australian men left with little or no sex life after prostate cancer treatment

18th November 2015 - Cancer research Patient support

Ahead of International Men’s Day, Cancer Council NSW is calling on more support for men affected by a prostate cancer diagnosis, with new research estimating that 97,000 Australian prostate cancer survivors are currently living with severe and persistent erectile dysfunction as a side effect of treatment.[1]

With prostate cancer the most common cancer in Australian men, this alarming new data highlights the need for further awareness of the sexual, physical and psychological issues that men can experience following a diagnosis. 

Associate Professor David Smith, Epidemiologist and Prostate Cancer Expert at Cancer Council NSW, said that erectile dysfunction does not just impact men’s sex lives, but can also have a serious impact on their overall emotional and psychological health.

“Studies have shown that there is a direct link between men’s sexual functioning and a diminished sense of masculinity and low self-esteem.[2]

“Prostate cancer survivors who suffer from erectile dysfunction often feel like something has been taken away from them. Relationships can become strained and communication with partners and loved ones is often challenged.”

Associate Professor Smith continued to say that the high incidence of severe erectile dysfunction in prostate cancer survivors exposed today should act as an important reminder for men and their doctors.

“The risk of permanent erectile dysfunction following prostate cancer is directly linked to the type of treatment undertaken, and is a known side effect of surgery, radiation and hormone therapy.

“There is a need for open communication around the various testing and subsequent treatment options that are available for prostate cancer so that men of all ages can make an informed, personal decision.”

Cancer Council NSW is working with the University of Sydney on a world-first online study – Rekindle – which will help address the issue of sexual dysfunction that many male cancer survivors can face. Rekindle has been developed to improve the sexual wellbeing of cancer survivors and their partners.

Dr Haryana Dhillon, Rekindle Investigator, said that many male participants of Rekindle were not prepared for the severe side-effects that could come with a cancer diagnosis.

“The new data released today is extremely confronting, and we see first-hand through the Rekindle study the true impact erectile dysfunction can have on a man’s sense of masculinity, his emotional health and his relationship with his partner.

“We want men to feel they can seek help following prostate cancer treatment. Rekindle offers a wide range of tools and advice on the side effects of treatments, overcoming fear and insecurity, or communicating better with your partner. It also includes practical advice on the use and availability of aids to assist with erectile dysfunction.”

Associate Professor David Smith continued, “Prostate cancer can seriously impact a man’s quality of life. This International Men’s Day is a timely reminder of the need for open, informed communication around testing and treatment options, and awareness of the support that is out there for all men who have been affected by the disease.”


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Media enquiries: Laura Cairnduff, Cancer Council NSW, 02 9334 1408, 0423 421 382 or


Notes to Editor

Estimating the number of prostate cancer survivors who suffer from permanent erectile dysfunction after treatment

An estimated 133,000 Australian prostate cancer survivors are currently living with little or no sex life and of these approximately 97,000 are experiencing this as a result of the side effects of treatment. 

Cancer Council NSW estimated, based on the combination of treatment patterns and risk of erectile dysfunction after treatment, that approximately 72 per cent of all men have severe and persistent erectile dysfunction after a diagnosis of prostate cancer. About 21 per cent of these men would have experienced this prior to treatment. Therefore 133,000 survivors are today living with severe and permanent erectile dysfunction. Almost three-quarters of these men (Attributable fraction = 73 per cent) or 97,000 individuals are living erectile dysfunction due to treatment side effects.

About Rekindle

  • Rekindle is an evidence-based online resource evaluating the impact of tailored sexual support, based on the sexual concerns of cancer survivors and their partners. Users can access Rekindle at
  • Rekindle is also a study to research its effectiveness. Anyone involved will be asked to (anonymously) provide data and feedback on their experience to contribute to the research and improve the resource.
  • Rekindle has been designed for a wide range of possible users affected by any type of cancer. There are 12 versions of Rekindle tailored to gender, relationship status and sexual orientation. Rekindle is self-led; once you log on and answer a survey you follow the pathway designed to best suit your needs, all within the privacy of your own home.
  • Seventy per cent of the Rekindle study is video-based and includes a range of scenarios brought to life by actors, with humour and insight. Narrated by Noni Hazelhurst, Rekindle has extensive activities and information, including real stories from cancer survivors and oncologists.
  • Rekindle is for all cancer survivors and their partners aged 18 or older who are at least six months post-treatment.
  • A small number of participants will act as a control group, meaning they will access a high quality resource that is not Rekindle.
  • The research element of Rekindle is being funded by the Australian Research Council.

[1] Erectile dysfunction defined as “able to obtain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse, 3 years after diagnosis”.  Cancer Council NSW has found that 133,000 prostate cancer survivors are today living with severe and permanent erectile dysfunction. Almost three-quarters of these men (Attributable fraction = 73%) or 97,000 individuals are living erectile dysfunction due to treatment side effects. Yu et al. Prostate cancer prevalence in New South Wales Australia: a population-based study. Cancer Epidemiol 2015; 39(1):29-36; Evans et al. Patterns of care for men diagnosed with prostate cancer in Victoria from 2008 to 2011. Med J Aust 2013; 198(10):540-545 and Smith et al. Quality of life three years after diagnosis of localised prostate cancer: population based cohort study. BMJ 2009; 339:b4817

[2] Seidler, Z. E., Lawsin, C. R., Hoyt, M. A., and Dobinson, K. A. (2015) Let’s talk about sex after cancer: exploring barriers and facilitators to sexual communication in male cancer survivors. Psycho-Oncology, doi: 10.1002/pon.3994.



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