Sexual function following radical radiotherapy for bladder cancer

Radiother Oncol. 1998 Nov;49(2):157-61. doi: 10.1016/s0167-8140(98)00109-1.


Background and purpose: The effect of radical radiotherapy (RT) for bladder cancer on sexual function has not been previously investigated. The current study was designed as a pilot to assess sexual function in males pre- and post-radiotherapy.

Materials and methods: An anonymous questionnaire was devised to examine the following sexual domains: libido, frequency of sexual function, erectile capacity, orgasm and ejaculation in the 6 months prior to radiotherapy and following treatment. Serum testosterone, FSH and LH were measured in 10 patients.

Results: Eighteen patients completed the questionnaire from 10 to 56 months following irradiation, 13 of whom were able to achieve an erection prior to RT. Over half of these patients noted a decline in the quality of erections after RT, with a similar proportion noting decreased libido and frequency of sexual activity. Three patients lost the ability to have any erections whatsoever. Of the 10 patients retaining erectile capacity, three noted reduced frequency of early morning erections suggesting a physical aetiology, five had decreased frequency of ejaculation and four had reduced intensity of orgasms. Seventy-one percent (12/17) felt their sex life was worse following RT but only 56% (9/16) were concerned about the deterioration. Testosterone levels were normal in all but one patient.

Conclusions: Radical RT to the bladder can cause a decrease in sexual function in males.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Erectile Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Libido / radiation effects*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Penile Erection / radiation effects*
  • Radiotherapy, High-Energy / adverse effects*
  • Sexuality / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / blood
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / radiotherapy*


  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone