Using penile implants after prostate cancer treatment

Two men hugging each other on the couch

Penile implants (also called penile prostheses) are devices to help you get an erection. These implants are put into your penis during a short operation, and usually an option when other treatments to produce erections have failed or cannot be used.

Do penile implants work after radical prostatectomy, radiation treatment, or hormone therapy?

Penile implants can work for people who have had different kinds of prostate cancer treatment, including radical prostatectomy, radiation treatment, or hormone therapy.

It’s important to note that penile implants will give you erections but will not fix other sexual concerns you might have from treatment.

    Penile implants will:

  • Give you erections.

  • Allow you to have penetrative sex.

    Penile implants will not:

  • Raise your sex drive if it’s low from hormone therapy.

  • Fix problems with low sensation.

  • Help you reach orgasm if you have trouble doing so already.

  • Make you ejaculate if you’ve had radical prostatectomy.

Types of penile implants

There are two main types of penile implants.

  • Implants that stay partly hard (malleable or semi-rigid) all the time.

  • Implants that need to be inflated before you have sex.

Both type of penile implants are put into the shaft of the penis, but each type works differently and has various pros and cons.

Malleable or semi-rigid penile implants

With this type of implant, the surgeon inserts two flexible rods into your penis, which you can easily set into different positions. This means:

  • Your penis will always be semi-rigid—never fully hard or soft—which could be uncomfortable.

  • The implant may be more difficult to hide under your clothes.

  • The tissue inside your penis could be damaged by the implant pressing on the inside.

Inflatable penile implants

Inflatable implants are pretty much what they sound like. An implant that can be inflated or pumped up. Inflatable implants have two cylinders in the penis, a pump in the scrotum and a sack of fluid, which is salt water, all implanted during surgery. The sack of fluid can be either in the abdomen (3-piece inflatable) or as part of the pump (2-piece inflatable) and is filled at the time of surgery.

How do penile implants work?

With a malleable or semi-rigid penile implant, you don’t need to use a pump. The implant’s size and stiffness never change. The implant usually points downwards but can be moved to an upward position when you’re ready to engage in sexual activity.

An inflatable implant needs to be pumped up before sex. As you squeeze and release the pump, a fluid fills the cylinders and produces an erection. After sex, you release a valve inside the scrotum and your erection will go down or deflate.

How effective are penile implants (and can penile implants increase size)?

Penile implants are highly successful in producing erections. They work for 9 out of 10 men and have a high satisfaction rate with men and their partners. Penile implants are considered the most invasive type of treatment for erectile dysfunction, so it comes down to how comfortable you are with trying it out.

Penile implants usually will not increase the size of your penis. The size of your penis after penile implant surgery will be similar to the size you had before surgery.

Choosing a penile implant

When choosing the penile implant that’s right for you, there are multiple factors to consider including pros and cons. You’ll need to weigh up your personal preference, age, cost considerations and medical history. Having other health conditions or a risk of infection can affect the choice of penile implant. Your doctor will work with you to help choose the most suitable implant.