Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, along with 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 more about these side effects?
Sure, Dr. Green. Surgery to remove retroperitoneal lymph nodes can damage the nerves that control ejaculation. If these nerves are damaged, when a male ejaculates, the sperm are not deposited outside the body but instead into the bladder. This is known as retrograde ejaculation. Although this type of surgery interferes with ejaculation, it does not affect a man's ability to have sexual intercourse.
If both testicles are removed, sperm cells cannot be produced and a man becomes infertile. Also, without testicles, a man cannot produce testosterone. In these cases, it may be necessary to take testosterone supplements, either in the form of a patch, topical gel, injections, or a pellet implanted under the skin.
One of the challenges with external radiation therapy is that, while it destroys cancer cells, it can destroy nearby healthy tissue. Although it's not common, some men do have a skin reaction that looks and feels like a sunburn on the outside of their skin. This will gradually fade away. Other possible side effects include fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea.
Chemotherapy can also cause a variety of side effects, with the severity depending on the type of drugs given, the amount taken, and how long the treatment lasts. Side effects can include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- An increased chance of infection because of reduced white blood cell counts
- Bruising or bleeding easily because of reduced blood platelet counts
- Tiredness due to reduced red blood cell counts
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation, and
- Scarring of the lungs
The good news is that these side effects gradually decrease after treatment is completed.