If you’re a man, poor performance in the bedroom can take a serious toll not only on the quality of your sex life, but also on your feelings of confidence and overall manliness.
Just ask Herschel Chalk, a men’s health advocate based in Cincinnati who struggled with erectile dysfunction (ED) for years after two battles with prostate cancer.
“It was very frustrating,” Chalk, 70, told Fox News of his plight with ED. “For a woman, it’s mental, but for a man, it’s physical, and many times we feel like we’re not the whole, complete man.”
But after beginning to use a penile implant — a surgically input device that offers on-demand erections complete with sensation — more than a decade ago, Chalk feels like himself again.
“I don’t have to worry about [ED],” he said. “With the implant, if I say we’re gonna have a good time, we’re gonna have a good time because you can easily pump it up. It works. It gives you joy.”
Rising ED rates
Despite improvements in the manufacturing and surgical application of penile implants over the past decade, too few men consider them as a viable option, Chalk’s urologist Robert J. Cornell, a board-certified urologist in general and prosthetic urology in downtown Houston, told Fox News.
Cornell said more than 30 million American men suffer from ED, and each year, 75,000 new men are diagnosed with the condition due to prostate cancer.
The ED rates are particularly bleak for prostate cancer survivors like Chalk, who beat his second round of the disease in 1998.
Of the 100,000 men who underwent a prostarectomy last year, 50 percent suffered from ED prior, and among those who didn’t before surgery, 60 percent will develop the condition post-operatively. Prostarectomies, wherein the prostate gland is fully or partially removed, can lead to ED.
For one-third of those men, ED medication fails, Cornell said. For many patients, like Chalk, other ED solutions available also prove unsuccessful or uncomfortable.
“I tried everything they had on the market,” Chalk said. “I tried the pills, I tried a vacuum erection device, I tried the shots, and none of it worked for me.”
Low penile implant use
And yet, a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that despite the rise in ED rates, popularity of penile implants appears to be waning.
Study authors, from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, found that while the number of men with ED jumped by 165 percent during the 10-year study, penile implant use fell. About 4.6 percent of men with ED got a penile implant in 2002, and only 2.3 percent of men underwent the procedure in 2010. Researchers drew their results from the public Medicare files of about 1.8 million men.
Each year, fewer than 20,000 penile implant procedures are done worldwide, Cornell said.
Penile implants are not noticeable physically or sensationally to men or their partners. The devices consist of a pump, two cylinders and a reservoir that are implanted in the body. Typically, the surgery, which is done under general anesthesia, takes 30 minutes, Cornell said. The procedure can lead to scrotal swelling, and he advises men to wear a jock strap for a week and avoid exercise for about a week, but typically patients return to work within one week.
Using the penile implant
Using the penile implant is simple, Cornell said. When activated by pressing on the pump, the reservoir fills with fluid (instead of the blood the penis typically uses to form an erection) and transfers it to the cylinders in the penis, thereby inflating them.
When a man wants an erection, he simply reaches into his scrotal sack, the underside of the penis, and squeezes the pump. He will remain erect even after ejaculating until he presses on a deflation valve at the base of the pump to return the fluid to the reservoir.
Despite having an average infection rate of less than 2 percent, some men may be deterred from the procedure because it can result in a penis that is one-quarter of an inch shorter, Cornell said. Rarely, penile implants can injure adjacent structures.
Why men aren’t getting them
Dr. Tobias Kohler, a urology professor at the SIU School of Medicine, told Fox News he thinks the reason why more men don’t get them is simply a lack of awareness.
“It’s paid for by Medicare, and so all men are eligible for it,” Kohler said. “If you’re healthy enough to climb a flight of stairs, you’re healthy enough to get an implant and use it.”
Kohler said that, among those men who do get penile implants, 95 percent report that they would recommend it to a fellow male friend, and about 93 percent of women would recommend it to a friend’s partner.
About 70 percent of penile implants last 15 years or longer, Kohler added.
Chalk, who is on his second penile implant in about 14 years, said surgery for ED isn’t for everyone, but he wants men to know they have options.
“[The implant] gave me back all my confidence because I knew it was gonna work every time I wanted it to work,” Chalk said. “It was just the fact of knowing that I was able to perform was the main thing.”