Surgery is the most common way to try and cure prostate cancer, but it can seriously affect what you’re working with in the bathroom and in the bedroom. Almost half the men who had their prostate completely removed said life after surgery was worse then they expected, according to a recent study in the Journal of Urology. Their biggest complaints: incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Fortunately, there are ways to manage these side affects.
Urinary incontinence means you have trouble controlling your urine and may have involuntary leakage. Nearly all men will temporarily experience this after surgery, but the physical and emotional affects are still frustrating. There are three main types of incontinence:
- Stress incontinence: This is the most common and urine leaks happen when men laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise.
- Overflow incontinence: This happens when the bladder does not empty well. Urine may take a long time to come out and happens with little force.
- Urge incontinence: This is the urgent need to go to the bathroom
Normal bladder function usually returns gradually after a few weeks, but to speed the process along, these methods can help:
- Kegels: Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, urethra and rectum. To perform a kegel, tighten your pelvic muscles (like you’re holding your urine mid-stream), hold for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat this several times a day for five minutes each time.
- Penile clamp
Talk with your doctor first about the risks and benefits of each option.
Removing the entire prostate gland may damage the nerves that allow men to get erections and nearly all men that have the surgery will experience some degree of impotence (erectile dysfunction). Your ability to have an erection after surgery depends on your age, your ability to get an erection before the operation, and whether the nerves were cut.
Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, says some men may only be impotent 1 to 2 months and others may go longer than a year without an erection.
The most common treatment is oral drugs like Viagra or Cialis. In cases where oral medications aren’t effective, a penile implant or vacuum device may be considered.
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