Supporting patients with impotence: 3 questions to ask

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Impotence is very common and often affects up to 90% of men following radiotherapy treatment, particularly treatment for bowel or prostate cancer. How can GPs support patients experiencing these difficulties?


Specialist viewpoint

The first step in supporting a patient is to encourage them to elicit their symptoms. It is important for GPs to normalise conversations around impotence as many men do not like to broach this sensitive subject. GatewayC’s Colorectal Cancer – Long-term Complications course, features an interview with Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Stephen Booth, who highlights that it can be a relief to some patients when a GP is the first to introduce the topic of impotence.

Stephen suggests 3 questions that GPs can ask a patient to start the conversation and gauge the extent of the problem:

1. Find out what ‘normal’ function was like for the patient before their cancer treatment. Does the patient have any co-morbidities that need to be taken into account, such as diabetes?

2. Ask patients about the quality of their erections post-treatment. For example, is it interfering with a relationship with a partner?

3. Besides the physical effects, what effect is it having on them emotionally and psychologically?


Could patients benefit from a referral?

It is also important for GPs to be aware of where to signpost for additional help. In the video below Stephen shares the benefits of GPs referring patients to additional support services and advises where to find services that may be available locally.

Find out more:

To learn more, the full interview is available in GatewayC’s Colorectal Cancer – Long-term Complications course. The course follows patient Simon’s story as he returns to the GP after completing his treatment for colorectal cancer. The course focuses on a variety of late effects following cancer treatment, including impotence.


Find out more: visit the GatewayC Improving the quality of your referral course here.

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* Information from Macmillan Cancer Support Two Week Wait Survey, November 2018