OBJECTIVE: To explore perceptions of the impact of erectile dysfunction on men who had undergone definitive treatment for early nonmetastatic prostate cancer.
DESIGN: Seven focus groups of men with early prostate cancer. The groups were semistructured to explore men's experiences and quality-of-life concerns associated with prostate cancer and its treatment.
SETTING: A staff model health maintenance organization, and a Veterans Affairs medical center.
PATIENTS: Forty-eight men who had been treated for early prostate cancer 12 to 24 months previously.
RESULTS: Men confirmed the substantial effect of sexual dysfunction on the quality of their lives. Four domains of quality of life related to men's sexuality were identified: 1) the qualities of sexual intimacy; 2) everyday interactions with women; 3) sexual imagining and fantasy life; and 4) men's perceptions of their masculinity. Erectile problems were found to affect men in both their intimate and nonintimate lives, including how they saw themselves as sexual beings.
CONCLUSIONS: Erectile dysfunction, the most common side effect of treatment for early prostate cancer, has far-reaching effects upon men's lives. Assessment of quality of life related to sexual dysfunction should address these broad impacts of erectile function on men's lives. Physicians should consider these effects when advising men regarding treatment options. Physicians caring for patients who have undergone treatment should address these psychosocial issues when counseling men with erectile dysfunction.