Prostate Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Men who receive treatment for prostate cancer may suffer from various side effects. These side effects may include- incontinence (inability to control urination), bowel problems, impotence (inability to get an erection), infertility (inability to father a child), hormonal changes and side effects of chemotherapy such as fatigue.

It is important for the patient to talk to his doctor or a support and counseling group to help manage any of the side effects that he may suffer from.

Incontinence:

There are four types of incontinence:

  • Men with stress incontinence leak urine when they cough, laugh, sneeze or do some exercise.
  • Men with urge incontinence have a sudden urge to urinate.
  • In continuous incontinence men lose all ability to control their urine.

Some measure may help the patient manage incontinence:

  • Limiting the intake of coffee and alcohol.
  • Urinating before bedtime and strenuous activity.
  • Technique called Kegel exercise tone the pelvis muscles that hold urine.
  • Medicines like ‘oxybutynin’ and ‘tolterodine’ help both stress and urge incontinence.
  • Patient can use diapers to control leakage.
  • Surgery to increase the size of the urinary bladder or to implant an artificial urinary sphincter (valve that controls the flow of urine) is a permanent treatment for incontinence.

Bowel problems:

Bowel problem arises after radiation therapy. Possible problems are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Loss of control of bowel movements
  • Bleeding with bowel movements

These can be controlled through medication.

Impotence:

Surgery, radiation or hormone therapy can cause men to become impotent. While surgery leads to permanent impotence. Effects of hormone therapy and radiation are temporary which can be treated with medication or the implanting some artificial device (VCD-Vacuum constriction device close/over the penis for erection.

Infertility:

Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation may cause permanent or temporary infertility in men. Medical procedure such as ‘sperm banking’ or ‘testicular sperm extraction’ helps in preserving fertility.

Hormonal changes:

This side effect is related to hormone therapy. Common side effects are impotence and decreased desire to have sex. The patient may even suffer from:

•           Hot flashes

•           Growth of breast tissue

•           Depression

•           Weight gain

•           Loss of muscle mass

•           Osteoporosis (bone thinning)

•           Low blood cell counts, which can cause anemia.