Life After Prostate Cancer: What You Can Expect

June 19, 2024

Nearly one in eight men is diagnosed with prostate cancer. If you are among them, this is what you can expect: a few changes in your body, some adjustments to your lifestyle, and the most effective recovery options in history.

Prostate cancer treatment continually advances, thanks to clinical trials that test promising new approaches. Nearly all men with the disease, 99%, now have a five-year survival rate if the cancer is caught before spreading to other parts of the body.

The life you’ll enjoy after treatment will be slightly different, however. This is what you should know beforehand.

How Prostate Cancer Occurs

Your prostate is a small gland that sits beneath your bladder, surrounding the urethra. As you age, your prostate tends to grow. If the cells in the gland divide abnormally, they can multiply uncontrollably and become susceptible to mutations that can become cancerous.

Prostate cancer symptoms include difficulty peeing, blood in your urine, weight loss, and pain in the back, hip, and pelvis. If the cancer has spread to your bones, you might feel pain there.

The Most Common Treatments for Prostate Cancer

Nearly 40% of men whose cancer has not spread (stage I or II) have their prostates surgically removed (prostatectomy), and 90% of those procedures are performed robotically. Other common treatments include active surveillance and radiation.

If the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, your doctor might advise chemotherapy or hormone treatment, the latter of which reduces hormone levels to slow or even shrink the cancer.

Life After Prostate Cancer Treatment

During and after your recovery, you will notice some changes, all of which are adaptable. The following are some you can prepare for:

A little leakage – Because the urethra runs through the center of the prostate, nearly all men experience incontinence (leakage) after surgery. This improves in time with Kegel strengthening exercises. Most men regain urinary control within a year. In some men, radiation may cause temporary blood in the urine.

Sick days – Expect to take some time off work. The length will depend on the procedure you undergo and physicality of your job, but on average, men miss 27 days of work due to prostate cancer treatment.

Possible sexual performance issues – Most men experience some sexual hurdles after cancer treatment, many of which are temporary or can be treated. Prostate removal and radiation can make it difficult to get an erection if the nerves and blood vessels are affected. Hormone treatments could reduce your desire for sex. Lastly, because the prostate makes the fluid that carries semen, men with prostatectomies cannot ejaculate – but do feel the pleasure of an orgasm.

Exercise and whole foods – If you’ve had surgery, your doctor will likely restrict strenuous exercise such as running, biking, and weight-lifting for three to four weeks. However, you should enjoy nonstrenuous activities until then and follow a diet high in vegetables and fruits, while low in red meat and saturated fats.

Other side effects – Hormone treatments can present side effects such as weight gain, loss of bone density, and hot flashes. Chemotherapy can cause nausea, hair loss, and fatigue, which should fade after treatments.

Reducing Prostate Cancer Risk After Treatment

The most important steps to a strong recovery from prostate cancer are taken before treatment. Eat well, get regular exercise, and avoid nicotine beforehand.

After treatment, expect to continue seeing your doctor once every few months for follow-up screenings, including prostate-specific antigen tests – blood tests that can detect cell abnormalities.

Don’t skip these appointments, or your doctor’s advice on diet and exercise. Prostate cancer is common, and it can recur. But if you remain cancer-free, these visits will become less frequent.

Ready to learn more? Visit MidLantic Urology’s prostate cancer webpage to learn more about symptoms, diagnosis, and our treatments. If you’re interested in our clinical trials, visit our clinical research page.

Schedule an appointment with a MidLantic Urology Physician near you today!

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