What to Expect After Surgery for Prostate Cancer

Medical exam

It’s no secret that rehabilitation and therapy helps patients return to their pre-surgery peak after an operation. Whether the surgery is to fuse a broken foot or remove a gallbladder, the recovery period is likely to include some lifestyle modifications to help adjust to physical changes.

When surgery is required for treatment for prostate cancer, patients should expect lifestyle changes as well, with adjustments to sexual function being the most common requirement.

Nearly 20,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in Australia. Although survival rates are high at more than 90%, many men experience some form of erectile dysfunction (ED) after surgery.
For many patients, the effects are temporary and can be treated by medications like Viagra during recovery.  However, it’s important to remember that every man is different and overall health and age play a role in the longevity and severity of ED.

Some men can simply wait until the symptoms subside. Others will benefit from penile injections or prostheses.  Many surgical treatments, hormone treatments, shockwave therapies and pharmaceuticals are dedicated to helping men overcome erectile dysfunction. Regardless of the treatment, it’s important to acknowledge the issue and speak to a medical professional to prevent ED from making a negative impact.

“Most men will see a change in the quality of their erection after prostate surgery,” says Dr. Katelaris. “They need to understand that a change is normal, especially during recovery.  The sooner we address the issue, the sooner we can begin treatment for erectile dysfunction and improve their lifestyle.”

Is My Erection Normal?

The primary goal of prostate surgery is to eliminate cancer as non-invasively as possible. Laparoscopic surgeries through use of the da Vinci robot help to minimize incisions and reduce recovery time for many patients.  However, ED is still a threat no matter how quickly a patient seems to bounce back from the initial operation.

Many treatment options are available for ED, but the first step is to diagnose the condition.  A man’s erectile function can be gauged by his capability in performing the following actions:

  • Spontaneously generate an erection
  • Penetrate without difficulty
  • Keep erection through orgasm
  • Be adequate for the satisfaction of both parties

If a man is having difficulty in any of these areas, or experiencing changes in sensation or function, especially after prostate surgery, then it is time to seek proper medical treatment.

Remember, ED can affect both partners in a relationship. Unfortunately, many men don’t want to discuss this side effect with their doctor, which can cause unnecessary suffering.  Problems with sexual function can lead to embarrassment, social isolation and relationship problems, which in turn feed into depression and anxiety.

Don’t let it get to this point.  While erectile dysfunction can require a lifestyle adjustment, so does recovering from any surgical procedure.

Learn more about the many options available for treating erectile dysfunction.