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Ease the Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Treatment

Content provided by: Better Medicine from Healthgrades

It's likely that you will have physical concerns since your cancer may cause symptoms and your treatment may cause    side effects. The side effects depend on your treatment, and that depends on how much the cancer has spread from your prostate. In this section, you'll learn more about how to respond to some of the most common side effects and symptoms from early-stage prostate cancer. Prostate cancer in its early stages is cancer that hasn't spread too far from the prostate, also called localized cancer.

If you have cancer that is confined to the prostate or that has spread only to areas near your prostate, you may have surgery or internal or external radiation treatments. We've listed some common side effects from these treatments and how to ease them. They are listed in alphabetical order so you can find help when you need it.

Anxiety and Depression

Many people may feel blue, anxious, or distressed after being told they have cancer. These feelings may continue or come back during treatment.

Taking these actions may ease your mental stress.

  • Talk with your family or friends.

  • Consider joining a cancer support group or finding a cancer "buddy" who can help you cope.

  • Ask your doctor about medications for depression and anxiety.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea includes loose or frequent bowel movements, or both. It may be a side effect of external radiation therapy. Many drugs can cause bowel changes, too. Diarrhea may lead to dehydration if you don't take these precautions.

  • Avoid milk and milk products.

  • Avoid gas-producing vegetables, dried fruit, fiber cereals, seeds, popcorn, nuts, corn, and dried beans.

  • Eat low-residue, low-fiber foods such as those included in the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).

  • Drink more fluids, such as water and broth, to prevent dehydration.

  • Ask your doctor about medications that may help.

Pain

You may have pain from the cancer itself, from surgical incisions, or from bladder irritation. Try these tips to ease the pain.

  • Take your pain medications regularly; don't wait for your pain to become severe. (Take steps to avoid constipation, a common side effect of pain medications.)

  • Change your activity level. See if you feel better if you rest more or move around more--either may help.

  • Distract yourself with music, funny videos, or computer games.

  • Use relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, or guided imagery exercises. Ask your doctor or nurse where you can learn more about these.

Rectal Pain

This can be from the surgery, from internal or external radiation, or from cryosurgery. Take these steps to ease the pain.

  • Take a warm sitz bath. Try 2 baths a day, each about 15 minutes long.

  • Talk with your doctor about creams or suppositories you can use.

Sexual Problems: Impotence, Erectile Dysfunction

The inability to have an erection can be a short-term or long-term side effect of treatment for prostate cancer. Basically, all the treatments for prostate cancer carry a risk for impotence. They differ in how soon after treatment it may occur and how likely it is to occur. The psychological stress of coping with cancer can also affect your ability to have sex. Before treatment, ask your doctor what you can expect. Knowing what to expect may help you cope.

The risk of impotence based on treatment. Here's an overview of different treatments for localized prostate cancer and their risk and incidence of impotence.

  • Radical prostatectomy. Impotence from this treatment can occur because the nerves that are involved in erections are either damaged or removed by surgery. The incidence of impotence varies with age, sexual function before surgery, and whether your doctor is able to do a nerve-sparing procedure. When impotence occurs, it happens immediately after surgery. If you have impotence after a nerve-sparing surgery, your ability to have erections may return within a year.

Reference: Cancer section on Better Medicine


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