Prostate cancer is a significant worry to those suffering from it. It is understandable, widely regarded as one of the most common cancers in Australia – and also one of the most aggressive when left undiagnosed.
Fortunately, prostate cancer is much easier to treat nowadays, thanks to how medicine has progressed, with as many as 90% of patients given the all-clear afterwards. While overcoming cancer is a patient’s main objective, this can come at a cost, with many known side effects of prostate cancer treatment resulting in other health issues that need medical care. Of course, understanding more about the side effects can help patients when they are considering the right course of treatment to take.
Today, we are considering the primary treatments and common side effects, arming you with information to support your decision-making if you or a family member are undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.
What Are The Side Effects Of Prostate Cancer Treatment?
We all know how common cancer is nowadays. Many of us are affected directly or see a friend or family member going through cancer.
Just as many types of cancer impact different areas of the body, the treatments from one cancer type to the next can vary – as do the side effects they cause. Considering how most cancer treatment works – by removing or killing off bad cancer cells in the body – it is a common by-product for patients to suffer side effects resulting from damage to healthy cells.
While there are many side effects of prostate cancer treatment, modern medical teams have numerous ways to help their patients deal with them, either removing or reducing their impact to allow a patient to live with minimum pain or inconvenience.
Side Effects Of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a compex process for many patients, highly invasive and, as such, can cause severe damage to the immune system. When immunity is compromised, the body becomes run down and open to side effects such as fatigue, brain fog and loss of appetite. Patients are also susceptible to infections on top of the prostate cancer they are already dealing with.
One way to help minimise the side effects of chemotherapy and boost your immunity is to increase the vitamins in your diet. Some patients find this difficult – particularly those experiencing a change in their appetite or nausea. In this case, protective drugs that support the immune system might be prescribed, such as prophylactic antibiotics and CSF treatments.
Bowel complications are another common side effect of chemotherapy after prostate cancer. For some patients, chemotherapy drugs cause fluid retention, which leaves toxins in the body that cause constipation. Others will experience the opposite, with their medication causing diarrhoea. Thankfully, there are natural methods for dealing with both – like increasing your high-fibre food intake and exercise. There are also over-the-counter medicines available for anyone needing further assistance to manage bowel movements, but it is recommended to discuss these with your medical team before taking this course of action.
Side Effects Of Prostatectomy
Prostate surgery – also called a prostatectomy – is a considerable step towards patient recovery; and a major medical procedure. As such, patients are advised to take precautions to ensure there are no long-term issues as a result of the procedure.
The most common side effects of prostatectomy you may experience include:
Urinary control – Incontinence is highly likely after prostate surgery, although usually a temporary issue which quickly improves as your body heals. Otherwise, there are several ways to deal with this side effect of prostatectomy, including training your body to manage it (pelvic floor exercises) and further surgery such as a male sling or artificial urinary sphincter implant.
Erectile dysfunction – Impotence is another common side effect of prostatectomy, and there are several ways to deal with it, depending on your age and erectile function prior to surgery. In any case, treatments such as Viagra, Alprostadil or vacuum devices can help you to manage erectile dysfunction in the short term, with the side effect likely to improve over time.
Other Prostate Cancer Treatment Side Effects
Not all prostate cancer patients require a radical prostatectomy or chemotherapy to help overcome their illness.
Radiotherapy is often used to treat patients whose cancer is still classed as low-grade. Typically, the side effects include those common among people undergoing radiotherapy – fatigue, nausea and dry skin. However, some patients will receive radiotherapy in conjunction with chemotherapy, where they are likely to experience some of the side effects already mentioned – bowel problems, fluid retention and loss of appetite. Most can be resolved in the same way by using protective drugs such as prophylactic antibiotics and CSF treatments.
Patients who undergo Androgen-Deprivation Therapy (ADT) – also referred to as Hormone Treatment – can suffer wide-ranging side effects, some more serious than others, such as lower bone density (resulting in bone fractures) or heart problems. This type of therapy can also lead to a loss of muscle mass and physical strength. Medical teams recommend that patients take plenty of regular exercise to help overcome the side effects of ADT.
The more common side effects of Hormone treatment include fatigue, mood changes, weight gain and sweating. Many side effects brought on by hormone treatment are due to the lower testosterone levels, which reverse when the treatment is finished and the testosterone levels rise again.
Reducing The Side Effects Of Prostate Cancer Treatment
Are you recently diagnosed or going through prostate cancer and concerned about any treatment side effects? The main thing to remember is you are not alone, with lots of help available.
Katelaris Urology is an expert in prostate cancer, treatments and side effects, with a qualified professional team ready to support your needs, whatever your age or situation.
If you have questions or need help managing the side effects of prostate cancer treatment, don’t hesitate to contact our team today.
Cancer Council of Australia