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What treatments are available for prostate cancer?

There are different treatments for prostate cancer. The treatment you are offered will vary depending on your age, overall health, and your tumour’s stage and grade. Your doctor will discuss the results from your diagnostic tests and your treatment options with you.

Diagnostic tests: Diagnostic tests are used to confirm or rule out conditions and diseases. They can include blood tests, scans, and biopsies.

The main treatments include monitoring the cancer, surgery to remove the prostate, radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy.

What are the most common side effects of prostate cancer treatments?

The prostate is close to the bladder and rectum. It is surrounded by a delicate network of nerves and blood vessels that enable you to get an erection. Treatments for prostate cancer can affect your urinary, bowel, and sexual functioning.

It is important to communicate with your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing as you undergo treatment. Ongoing communication will enable your doctor to manage your side effects as early as possible.

Leaking urine
It is normal to experience some loss of bladder control (called urinary incontinence) and leak urine after surgical or radiation treatment, but for most men, this will improve over time. For more information, see our section on what it is like living with prostate cancer.

Bowel problems
Damage to the rectum caused by surgery or radiation therapy can lead to bowel problems, including bleeding from the rectum, diarrhoea, or an urgency to go to the toilet. But this is very rare. Some men find they have softer stools during radiotherapy, but this resolves in time after the treatment has stopped.

Erectile dysfunction
Some treatment can damage the nerves and blood supply to the penis, making it difficult to get or keep an erection, called erectile dysfunction. Unfortunately, erectile dysfunction is the most common side effect of prostate cancer treatment. However, there are options for managing this during treatment. Most men (with intact nerves ) see an improvement over time once treatment has stopped. For more information, see our section on what it is like living with prostate cancer.

Intact nerves: If you are undergoing surgery, depending on the stage and grade of your cancer, you may be offered nerve-sparing surgery. Nerve-sparing surgery aims to reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction and leaking urine. Unfortunately, some cancers cannot be removed without cutting or damaging the nerves, meaning you might always need treatments to help get an erection.