Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues in addition to the cancer cells, side effects are common. Side effects depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment, and may not be the same for each man. They also can change from one treatment session to the next. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about potential side effects of cancer treatment?
Sure, Dr. Reynolds. After prostatectomy surgery, the possible complications include impotence and urinary incontinence, although nerve-sparing techniques may reduce the risk of these complications.
In those few cases where removal of the testicles is required to manipulate hormones, temporary bruising and swelling can occur. The loss of testosterone production can lead to problems with sexual function, osteoporosis, and loss of muscle mass.
Side effects of external radiation are temporary and can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Skin reactions such as redness and irritation
- Rectal burning or injury
- Inflamed bladder, and
- Blood in the urine
Side effects caused by internal radiation may include:
- Pain, swelling, or bruising in the penis or scrotum
- Red-brown urine and semen
- Incontinence, and
There are also side effects associated with hormonal therapy, including:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of sexual desire
- Liver problems
- Diarrhea, and
- Enlarged breasts
The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the drugs given and the frequency and duration of the treatment. Some of the side effects for the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs to treat prostate cancer include:
- Blood clots
- Dry skin
- Fluid retention
- Hair loss
- Lowering of white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets
- Mouth sores
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
- Upset stomach, and
- Weight gain
These side effects gradually decrease after treatment is completed.