Men’s Health Awareness Month: Life after prostate cancer
While most people worry about the impact a cancer diagnosis will have on their survival, prostate cancer is associated with a good long-term prognosis.
This is attributed to an overall earlier diagnosis of prostate cancer, as well as treatment advances, which, in turn, has also resulted in improved quality of life.
If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you will have either undergone or are about to embark on one or more types of therapy recommended by your doctor.
Depending on the stage of your cancer, this may include watchful waiting and active surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy or hormone therapy, with each of these being associated with potential side effects.
Each person will encounter varying side effects and to different degrees, and while some of these symptoms will resolve, others may persist or even worsen with time. The most important element to leading a full and healthy life after prostate cancer is to be well informed and know how best to deal with these issues, should they arise.
Androgen deprivation therapy
ADT is a common form of treatment for men with prostate cancer. It is a type of anti-hormone therapy aimed at inhibiting testosterone production, which in turn, hinders testosterone-induced growth of the prostate tumour. ADT is associated with significantly improved long-term survival rates.
When men undergo ADT there is a dramatic fall in testosterone levels and this can have several negative effects on your body.
The more commonly reported side effects include:
- Loss of libido.
- Hot flushes.
- Negative effects on metabolic profile. These can include obesity, diabetes, and change in lipid levels, which consequently raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Increased bone metabolism.
The psychological effects of prostate cancer are often felt not only by those diagnosed with the disease but also their family members. The causes for this are multifaceted as not only does a diagnosis of cancer force you to face a potentially shortened lifespan, but there is also the treatment and side effects of this to deal with.
It’s also important to recognise that the prostate gland is a sexual organ and that sexual function contributes significantly to a man’s sense of wellbeing, which is often lost in those with prostate cancer. As a result, it’s common to experience the ramifications of this, with many men reporting anxiety and depression due to a loss of sexual dysfunction.
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Other effects of prostate cancer
Both prostate cancer and the treatment can result in negative effects on your body. Other more common side affects you may notice include:
- Difficulty urinating, urinary incontinence and dribbling.
- Bowel dysfunction, such as diarrhoea, frequent stools, incontinence and rectal bleeding.
- Pain, particularly if there is spread to other parts of the body, such as bone.
While prostate cancer and its treatment can effect on your quality of life, there are measures you can take to decrease this impact.
The following may potentially help to maintain a healthier you:
- Eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Regular physical activity, including aerobic and resistance exercises have been shown to improve energy levels, strength and cardiovascular health.
- Stop smoking.
- Management of risk factors such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels with medication, if appropriate.
- See your medical practitioner about help with the symptoms of urinary, bowel and erectile dysfunction. There are medications and devices available, which can improve symptoms.
- Communicate with your partner about the side effects you’re experiencing, remembering that these are often as difficult for them as it is for you. Understanding how this affects each other will also help with intimacy.
- Consider joining a support group or seeking counselling, particularly if you’re struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- Seek information from your health care provider regarding side effects of therapy. Being mentally prepared for these will help you to better cope.
- Information courtesy of Here4You.