Prostate Cancer: Side Effects


Surgery Side Effects

Side effects of surgery include, but are not limited to:

  • Urinary Incontinence This occurs when you are unable to control your urine or have trouble with leakage. There are three types of incontinence.
    • Stress Incontinence This occurs when men leak urine when they cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise. This is the most common type of incontinence after prostate surgery.
    • Overflow Incontinence This happens when men take a long time to urinate and have a dribbling stream with little effort.
    • Urge Incontinence This occurs when men have a sudden urgency to use the restroom and pass urine.

Normal bladder controls return for men within several weeks or months after the surgery.

  • Impotence This means that a man cannot have an erection strong enough to have sex. The nerves that allow men to have erections may be damaged during treatment.
  • Sterility A radical prostatectomy cuts the tubes between the testicles and the urethra. This means that a man is unable to have children the natural way.
  • Lymphedema A rare side effect of removing the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes carry fluid from all over the body to the heart. Often, fluid can collect in the legs or genital area, but can be treated with physical therapy.
  • Change in Penis Length A possible minor side effect of surgery is a decrease in penis length.

Radiation Side Effects

Side effects of radiation therapy include, but are not limited to:

  • Bladder Problems These include blood in the urine, frequent urination or a burning sensation while urinating.
  • Urinary Incontinence This is less common with radiation therapy than it is with surgery.
  • Impotence After several years, the impotence rate after radiation is about the same as that after surgery. It usually does not occur right after treatment, but slowly develops over time.
  • Fatigue Radiation therapy may also cause fatigue that may last a few months after treatment.
  • Lymphedema Fluid buildup in the legs or genitals is possible if the lymph nodes receive radiation therapy.

Hormone Therapy Side Effects

Side effects of hormone replacement therapy include, but are not limited to:

  • Hot flashes (these go away with time)
  • Breast tenderness 
  • Growth of breast tissue
  • Weakening of the bones (a process called osteoporosis)
  • Low red blood cell counts (also called anemia)
  • Low mental sharpness
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Lower levels of HDL, which is considered the good cholesterol
  • Depression