Living With Prostate Cancer

With the advances in treatment, many men live long and full lives with prostate cancer. It is, however, important to know from the start what to expect and how best to deal with the physical and psychological ramifications of the disease itself and any treatment you might undergo.

Health

Having a healthy lifestyle is extremely important. As well as decreasing your risk of getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and many other conditions, a healthy lifestyle can help you deal with the psychological stress of dealing with cancer – or any illness.

Whether you’re concerned about developing prostate cancer in the future, have recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer or if you’re in the more advanced stages of prostate cancer, a healthy lifestyle can be beneficial.

How do I stay healthy?
Firstly, you need to avoid being overweight. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to find out if you’re overweight or obese. If your BMI is 25 or above, you’re overweight. If your BMI is 30 or above, you’re obese, and should take active steps to reduce your weight.

Following a healthy eating plan, watching portion sizes, being physically active, and reducing sedentary time are all effective ways to lose weight. It’s recommended you should exercise for at least 30 minutes, five or more days and week.

A diet that’s high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in fat and red meat can reduce your chance of developing many diseases and can help you to lose weight. It’s also important to drink lots of water and ensure your alcohol intake does not exceed 2 standard size drinks a day.

Cutting out cigarettes and cigar smoking is also an extremely important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you’re a smoker, your doctor or pharmacist can advise you on ways to help you quit smoking.

Not only can healthy living reduce your chance of getting prostate cancer but being strong and fit can also help you as you deal with your illness.

Keeping up your strength before, during and after cancer treatment is vital. There may be times during your treatment when you don’t feel like eating – you may feel sick or tired. If this happens, you may be referred to a dietician, who’ll be able to advise on how to best meet your nutritional needs during this time.

Being fit, strong, active and having a healthy lifestyle can also help you manage some of the side-effects of treatment, such as such as hot flushes, bone weakening and depression.

It’s important to know there’s a chance you may experience problems passing urine after you’ve had treatment for prostate cancer. These might include:

Problems can include:

  • Leaking urine, during the day or night. This could be a few drops or a lot more. It can also occur when you sneeze, cough or exercise
  • Passing urine more often than usual
  • Getting up to pass urine more often during the night
  • The urge to urinate may be more urgent and sometimes leaking urine before you get to the bathroom
  • Difficulty emptying your bladder or having a slower or weaker flow of urine.

Talk to your doctor to find the best way to deal with your incontinence problems. Rehabilitation is one option and involves therapy/exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and the muscles that help to carry urine from the bladder to the outside. Medication may also be an option in certain circumstances.

Relationships

Many prostate cancer patients find it difficult to talk to their doctor or other healthcare professionals about personal matters – like their sex life – and how this could be affected during treatment. This information may help to answer some of your questions and give you an idea of the kinds of issues you may want to raise with your doctor.

Will prostate cancer treatment affect my ability to have sex?
This depends on the type of treatment you receive. Some treatments may cause erectile dysfunction, which can be either temporary or indefinite.

Surgery, external and internal radiotherapy, and cryotherapy can all damage the nerves and blood vessels needed to get an erection. Hormone therapy may affect your sexual desire and ability to get an erection because of reduced levels of testosterone. Stress and anxiety about the disease – and other diseases such as diabetes and hypertension – can also affect your libido and ability to get an erection. There are treatments available for erectile dysfunction and you should discuss these options with your doctor.

Will treatment for prostate cancer affect my ability to have an orgasm and to ejaculate?
If you have a radical prostatectomy to remove your prostate and seminal vesicles, you won’t be able to ejaculate and may experience ‘dry orgasms’ where you feel the sensation of an orgasm but don’t ejaculate any semen. These orgasms may feel different to the ones you had prior to surgery.

If you undergo radiotherapy or brachytherapy you may still produce semen after treatment. If this is the case, you should still be able to have an orgasm but they may feel different to the sensation you had before treatment. Some men find they have less intense orgasms when they are treated with hormone therapy.

Will treatment for prostate cancer affect my fertility?
If you’re not able to produce seminal fluid and ejaculate semen, you may not be able to father children. If you still want to father children, you should discuss with your doctor the possibility of sperm banking. It’s important to know that many patients undergoing treatment for prostate cancer do retain their fertility and thus it’s important to discuss your risks of conceiving a child with your doctor.