Health Information and Tools > Cancer and Sexuality > Male Sexuality and Cancer > Overview of Erection Problems >  Male Sexuality and Cancer: Oral Medicine for Erections

Main Content

Male Sexuality and Cancer: Erection Problems

Oral Medicine for Erections


There are types of medicine taken by mouth for erection problems, which include:

  • Viagra®
  • Levitra®
  • Cialis®
  • Staxyn®

How does medicine taken by mouth work for erections?

A man takes a pill before he wants to have an erection for sex. It takes at least 30 minutes to work. Most medicine lasts up to 4 hours, except Cialis®, which has both the daily-dose version and also a longer-acting pill that can last for 48 hours. The pills work by increasing a chemical that helps blood flow to the penis. After the pill is taken, the man needs to get sexually excited (mentally) and start foreplay (e.g., touching) to get an erection. These types of medicine work for about 70% of men. The erection won’t happen on its own. These types of medicine have no effect on sexual desire or interest.

Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take any type of erection medicine. Don’t take erection medicine if you take:

  • nitrate medicine (e.g., nitroglycerin) for heart disease
  • alpha-blockers to lower blood pressure and treat enlarged prostate glands

Will medicine taken by mouth work for me?

Picture of the prostate gland  
  • If you've had your prostate removed, it’s less likely these types of pills will work for you in the first year after surgery. They’re more likely to work if your surgery was a nerve-sparing procedure. The pills may work better after a man’s natural erections have had time to recover—about 12 to 24 months after surgery.
  • If you’ve had radiation for prostate cancer, the pills might help at first, but may not work long-term.
  • Oral medicine for erections usually works best for mild erection problems. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about erection problems.
  • If you’ve had other types of cancer and some degree of erectile dysfunction, pills might help. You might need to take them long-term (or for weeks or months), until you can get an erection without medicine. Confidence can play a big part with erectile function. If you don’t believe you’ll get an erection, you might not get one. Sometimes taking erection medicine helps make you more confident and is only needed short-term.

What are the side effects of erection medicine?

Side effects may include:

  • headaches
  • flushing in the face
  • upset stomach
  • your vision goes blue for a short time (Viagra® only)
  • the eyes being sensitive to light
  • nasal congestion

Don’t eat heavy, high-fat meals when you take this type of medicine because it may not work as well. If you have any questions about medicine, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Where can I get erection medicine?

You need a prescription from your family doctor or oncologist. These types of medicine are not usually covered by most benefit plans. Talk to your insurance company to find out about your coverage.

Tips for Taking Erection Medicine

  • Try the medicine a few times because it doesn’t always work well the first time.
  • If you’ve had pelvic surgery, ask your doctor how long you have to wait before you try this type of medicine.
  • Tell your partner you’re taking erection medicine and that it’s safe for you to use. Don’t try to hide using the medicine from your partner.​

If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not to take erection medicine, go to Erection Problems: Should I take medicine?

Go to Top