Thousands of men who have survived prostate cancer are being left without any support to cope with erectile problems resulting from the disease.
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Prostate Cancer UK revealed a dramatic postcode lottery of support for men with erectile dysfunction following cancer treatment.
The charity said that without attending to the problem, the NHS “is leaving them susceptible to long-term physical and psychological damage.”
The NHS has been warned that national care for patients with erection problems is “patchy, insufficient care”.
Erectile dysfunction is a common side effect of prostate cancer treatment, affecting 76% of men who have been treated for the diseasebut it is often treatable if the right care is available.
However, just 13% of local health commissioners across the UK provide the breadth of treatment and services needed to give men living with this challenging condition the best chance of recovery, the charity’s search revealed.
These findings are reinforced by the results of a survey of over 500 men with erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer treatment, in which as many as 1 in 4 (24%) men claimed no one offered them support or medication to deal with the issue.
John Robertson, Specialist Nurse at Prostate Cancer UK said; “When it comes to treating erectile dysfunction following prostate cancer treatment, early support and treatment is vital.
“As a specialist nurse, I regularly speak to men at rock bottom because they can no longer get or maintain an erection. Not only can it put a complete stop to a man’s sex life, it can have devastating longer-term implications including depression and relationship breakdowns.
“It is therefore incredibly concerning that only a handful of men are getting the support needed to overcome this condition and it’s shocking that in some areas men aren’t getting any support whatsoever.”
CCGs in England, Health Boards in Scotland and Wales and Health & Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland are being called on to implement this service locally.
Recent treatment guidance for erectile dysfunction produced by Prostate Cancer UK and Macmillan Cancer Support recommends early intervention and a choice of various treatment and support options in order to give men the best chance of recovery, including access to a NHS erectile dysfunction clinic.
However, only half (51%) of commissioners could confirm that they offer this as an option. Two commissioners admitted that they offer no support whatsoever and almost 1 in 5 (17%) were completely unaware of the arrangements in their area.
Robertson continued; “This is an issue that has been swept under the carpet for too long and thousands of men have been left to suffer in silence. Erectile dysfunction is a debilitating health condition and it must be taken seriously by the NHS and commissioning groups.”