Side effects of surgery (radical prostatectomy)

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During prostate cancer surgery, also known as a radical prostatectomy, surgeons remove the entire prostate gland, as well as some of the surrounding tissue. Because the prostate is located right between your bladder and urethra, removing it is likely to cause some side effects.

Each person may experience side effects of prostate cancer surgery differently. For some people these side effects are temporary. The recovery process might get frustrating, but remember that these changes happen to many individuals — and they can be managed.

Try to stay hopeful about the journey ahead.

Common side effects
of prostate cancer surgery

Changes to your sex life

After surgery, most individuals will experience:

  • erection problems
    Also known as erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence. All individuals will experience at least some short-term erectile dysfunction, because the nerves that are responsible for erections are harmed during surgery. How well and how quickly your erections recover will depend on the extent of the damage to the nerves, your age, and how strong your erections were before surgery.

  • dry orgasm
    Surgery removes the prostate, which means you will no longer produce semen and ejaculate during sex. Although it'll feel different, orgasms can still be pleasurable.

  • loss of sensitivity
    Rubbing against the prostate can be pleasurable for the bottom partner during anal play or anal sex. Removing the prostate means that these activities are likely to feel different after surgery.

How might surgery affect my sex life?

Improving erections after prostate cancer treatment

Loss of fertility (infertility)

If you would like to have children after surgery, speak to your doctor about saving (banking) your sperm to use later.

Urinary problems

When your surgeon takes out your prostate, this can damage the muscles and nerves that control when you urinate (wee). This is because the prostate sits right underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The urethra is where urine (wee) flows through.

This damage can lead to:

After surgery, you'll need to have a catheter for up to two weeks. Once the catheter is removed, you may still experience some leaking and may need to use pads. Your nurse or care team can tell you more about this.

Urinary problems after prostate surgery

Other common
side effects

To give yourself the best chance of a smooth recovery with minimal side effects, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet before surgery.

If you have a higher weight, getting fit before surgery might help speed up your recovery. Starting pelvic floor (or Kegel) exercises before surgery can also help reduce any urinary problems afterwards. Your doctor may advise you on having regular bowel movements, to avoid constipation.

Before surgery, talk to your doctor or care team about how best to prepare and what to expect.

What's next?

Now that you've read up on Side effects of surgery (radical prostatectomy), here are some related articles to explore as you continue to build your knowledge and understanding of this topic.
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