Although doctors plan very carefully for prostate cancer treatment, it is hard to limit the side effects of prostate cancer treatment so that only cancer cells are removed or destroyed. Because treatment also damages healthy cells and tissues, it often causes unwanted, and sometimes serious, side effects.
The side effects of prostate cancer treatment depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment. Also, each patient reacts differently. Doctors and nurses can explain the possible side effects of prostate cancer treatment, and they can often suggest ways to help relieve symptoms that may occur during and after treatment. It is important to let the doctor know if any side effects occur.
Find information about the various methods used to detect prostate cancer from Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Surgery
The main side effect of prostate cancer surgery is pain. Although patients are often uncomfortable during the first few days after surgery, their pain can be controlled with medicine. Patients should feel free to discuss pain relief with the doctor or nurse. It is also common for patients to feel tired or weak for a while. The length of time it takes to recover from an operation varies for each patient.
Surgery to remove the prostate may cause permanent impotence and sometimes causes urinary incontinence. These side effects of prostate cancer surgery are somewhat less common than in the past. Some surgeons use new methods, especially when removing small tumors. These techniques, called nerve-sparing surgery, may prevent permanent injury to the nerves that control erection and damage to the opening of the bladder. When this surgery is fully successful, impotence and urinary incontinence are only temporary. However, men who have a prostatectomy no longer produce semen, so they have dry orgasms.
Side Effect of Prostate Cancer Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy may cause patients to become very tired as treatment continues. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise patients who have undergone radiation therapy to treat their prostate cancer to try to stay as active as they can. Patients may have diarrhea or frequent and uncomfortable urination. In addition, when patients receive external radiation therapy, it is common for the skin in the treated area to become red, dry, and tender. Other potential side effects of radiation therapy can include hair loss in the pelvic area. The loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the amount of radiation used.
Radiation therapy causes impotence in some men. This does not occur as often with internal radiation therapy as with external radiation therapy; internal radiation therapy is not as likely to damage the nerves that control erection.
Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Hormone Therapy
Orchiectomy, LHRH agonists, and estrogen often cause prostate cancer side effects such as loss of sexual desire, impotence, and hot flashes. When first taken, an LHRH agonist tends to increase tumor growth and may make the patient's symptoms worse. This temporary problem is called "tumor flare." Gradually, however, the drug causes a man's testosterone level to fall. Without testosterone, tumor growth slows down and the patient's condition improves. Prostate cancer patients who receive estrogen or an antiandrogen may have nausea, vomiting, or tenderness and swelling of the breasts. (Estrogen is used less now than in the past because it increases a man's risk of heart problems. This form of treatment is not appropriate for men who have a history of heart disease.)
Prostate Cancer Chemotherapy Side Effects
The prostate cancer side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the specific drugs that are used.
Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Biological Therapy
Biological therapy may cause flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, muscle aches, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Patients may also experience other side effects including the tendency to bleed or bruise easily, and some get a rash. Some of these problems can be severe, but they go away after the treatment stops.