BACKGROUND: The choice between surgical versus non-surgical treatment options is a fundamental decision for men with local stage prostate cancer because of differences in risks of genitourinary side effects among available treatments. OBJECTIVES: We assessed whether preexisting genitourinary symptoms at the time of diagnosis influenced men’s preferences for surgery versus other management options. METHODS: We recruited 593 patients with newly diagnosed local stage prostate cancer prior to initiating treatment from an integrated health care system, an academic urology center, and community urology clinics. Using logistic regression we compared whether men had a preference for non-surgical options or only preferred surgery. RESULTS: Nearly 60% indicated they were considering non-surgical options. Age and clinical characteristics but not preexisting genitourinary symptoms influenced the decision between preferences for surgical or non-surgical options. A total of 62% of men reported side effects as a main factor in their treatment decision. Men with more aggressive tumor types were less likely to consider side effects, however, men who reported poor ability to have an erection were more likely to consider side effects (p<0.001). CONCLUSION: Sexual dysfunction at time of diagnosis, but not other genitourinary symptoms, is associated with men considering treatment-related side effects when considering surgery versus other options. Men who are not experiencing sexual dysfunction at diagnosis may discount the risks of side effects in the decision making process.