Coping With Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer treatment affects each man differently. Some sail through treatment with few, if any, side effects or complications. Others are may experience a litany of treatment related issues. The good news is that most problems caused by prostate cancer can be managed and often disappear following treatment.

Here are a few tips for coping with prostate cancer's common complications.

Fertility. Now that younger men are developing prostate cancer, fertility has become an important consideration in treatment. Chemotherapy can damage sperm and cause birth defects. Surgery, radiation and hormone therapy may impair fertility. Discuss any concerns about fertility with your physician.You may want to bank sperm before treatment starts so they have the option of having children in the future.

Incontinence. You may struggle with incontinence, or the inability to control urination, during prostate cancer treatment. Usually, it's temporary. There are medications, medical devices and special clothing that treat, or help men cope, with incontinence.

Sexual dysfunction. It's understandable to worry that prostate cancer may limit your ability to enjoy sexual relations. With treatment, there is potential for temporary or permanent sexual side effects. The extent and severity depends largely upon the type of treatment.

The most common reported complaint among prostate cancer patients is erectile dysfunction. About 25 to 85 percent of men experience erectile dysfunction following prostate surgery; most achieve partial or full recovery after two years. Radiation treatment can damage tissue and nerves, gradually effecting erectile function. Short-term neoadjuvant (given first and early in treatment) hormonal therapy limits the release or action of testosterone. This hormone fuels prostate cancer growth. Hormone therapy can eliminate erectile function quickly. Hormones may also cause a decrease in libido and unpleasant side effects such as hot flashes, fatigue, bone fragility, weight gain and muscle loss.

Only 59 percent of prostate cancer patients who experience sexual dysfunction discuss it with their physician. If treatment is affecting your sex life, you shouldn't let it lessen your quality of life. There are medical options available to improve sexual functioning and enjoyment.

Emotional support. Don't underestimate the power of sharing your experiences with other men who have prostate cancer. Your local hospital or cancer center may sponsor support groups. The American Cancer Society's Man to Man program provides education, resources and awareness for men with prostate cancer. Support groups are a major component of this program. Some locations even offer support for spouses and partners.