Possible Risks and Side Effects of Treatments for Prostate Cancer

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Possible Side Effects with Prostate Surgery

Several treatment options are available for prostate cancer in different stages. If the cancer is detected early, it can be treated quite effectively. However, there is a possibility of side effects of treatments for prostate cancer which the patient should be aware of before going ahead with a particular treatment. Many patients are concerned about the occurrence of side effects and should discuss the different treatment options available in their case. But if the cancer is localized, it may require only local treatment with minimal adverse side effects.

Urinary Dysfunction and Bladder Incontinence

One of the common side effects of prostate cancer treatment is frequent urination. The patient may typically require waking up a few times at night to pass urine, and the same frequency may be seen during the day as well. In many cases, the treatment may lead to an increased urinary urgency and weak bladder control. Some patients also experience pain during urination.

Patients who undergo prostate surgery may experience bladder incontinence, which may include frequent leakage of urine or even total loss of bladder control in some cases. More than 25 percent of men experience this side effect after prostatectomy. Radiation therapy may also result in weakening of the bladder tissue or irritation and painful urination. However, in a majority of cases the symptoms reduce within a year after treatment.

Diarrhea or Bowel Dysfunction

Diarrhea or frequent passing of stools is also one of the side effects of treatments for prostate cancer. The natural ability to control bowel movements may get reduced as a result of radiation therapy. Bleeding of the rectum is also seen in some cases after the treatment. Such side effects are rare with surgery, but are more commonly seen after radiotherapy.

Exposure to harmful radiation may affect the area around the rectum, causing bowel dysfunction. But in most cases, the patient’s condition may improve within a few months to a year. Only 10 to 20 percent of the patients continue to suffer from bowel dysfunction two years after the radiation treatment. Chances of this side effect are reduced in case of brachytherapy instead of external beam radiation therapy.

Loss of fertility and Erectile Dysfunction

Almost all the patients who undergo prostate surgery or radiotherapy are likely to experience erectile dysfunction for the first few months following the treatment. This happens because the sensitive nerves in that region get impacted by the trauma caused due to surgery or radiation exposure. However, if there has been no significant nerve damage, most patients tend to recover from this abnormality within one to two years after treatment.

Prostatectomy involves the removal of prostate as well as the seminal vesicles at the base of the bladder. This will almost invariably result in loss of fertility. The same condition also occurs in most cases with external beam radiation therapy. However, the latest advances in radiation therapy have made it a more accurate procedure, resulting in a reduction in the severity of side effects.

References

Prostate Cancer Foundation: https://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.5822789/k.9652/Side_Effects.htm

Web MD: https://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/guide/prostate-cancer-side-effects