Just about all treatments for cancer cause some type of side effect. Side effects can range from mild to more severe, and they vary greatly from person to person. The side effects listed below are most commonly associated with prostate cancer, but your experience could be different. Contact your doctor whenever you experience side effects.
Common prostate cancer treatment side effects include:
- Urinary incontinence
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of fertility
Bladder control and digestive issues.
Treatments for urinary side effects are mostly surgical, although there are some prescription medications available that can help control urinary flow. Accidental or involuntary leakage of urine, called urinary incontinence, is a common side effect of prostate cancer treatment. It is usually temporary, commonly lasting 3-6 months after surgery. Some people may lose a few drops of urine when they cough, sneeze, strain, or lift something heavy. Others may have a larger problem that requires the use of pads. To help minimize incontinence:
- Do pelvic exercises before or after surgery (consult your doctor about timing and safety).
- Limit bladder irritants such as tea, coffee, alcohol, and carbonated drinks.
- Drink plenty of water; dehydration can worsen the problem or cause constipation.
Thanks to recent treatment advances, patients are less likely to experience diarrhea and rectal bleeding.1 If you experience diarrhea, talk to your provider about taking anti-diarrheal agents (such as Imodium®) to treat it. Your doctor may also recommend adjusting your fiber intake or supplements.
Infertility is rarely reversible after prostate cancer treatment. For this reason, placing sperm in a bank before treatment is often recommended.
Almost all cancer treatment comes with side effects, but that doesn’t mean you will experience all of these symptoms. For those that you do experience, medical professionals, including your CVS Specialty CareTeam, can recommend treatments that can provide relief.