What is it like living with prostate cancer?
Living with prostate cancer can affect your everyday life, work, and relationships. You may experience side effects from treatment, even when the treatment has finished, which can affect your physical health. You may also be worried about your cancer coming back, which can greatly impact your mental health.
It is important to know that you are not alone. Talk to your doctor about local support groups or counselling services that may be helpful to you and your loved ones.
Physical and emotional effects
Extreme tiredness, or fatigue, is very common in men with prostate cancer and can affect everyday tasks, social activities, sleep, and overall concentration.
If you are feeling fatigued, you should not drive.
Some men cope better with fatigue than others. If you are usually active, you may feel frustrated by an extreme lack of energy. These feelings are normal. Sometimes small changes to help improve your fatigue can help you feel in control of your cancer.
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If you have had surgery to treat your prostate cancer, then you may find you leak urine. This is entirely normal. Some men find they only leak a little, and some men find they leak a lot. For most men, the leaking lessens over time.
Leaking urine can feel embarrassing, but there are products you may find helpful. Incontinence pads line your underwear and absorb any leaking urine. They are discrete, so no one will know it is there.
Talk to your doctor about other treatments and products that may be helpful to you.
Difficulty passing urine
If you are having difficulty passing urine, it may be because your tumour is causing your prostate to press against the urethra. Your doctor may recommend medication or an operation to remove part of your prostate, called a trans-urethral resection of the prostate, or TURP. This operation will not cure your cancer but will help you pass urine much more easily.
Sex and relationships
Being diagnosed with prostate cancer can affect your desire for sex. You might feel down, angry, or stressed, and these emotions can change your feelings about sex.
Some treatment can damage the nerves and blood supply to the penis, making it difficult to get or keep an erection, called erectile dysfunction. If you have had hormone therapy, this can also affect your desire for sex.
If you have a partner, talking about sex and how you are dealing with your cancer can help. It can be difficult talking about sex, but your doctor can help you get treatment and support.
Being told you have cancer can be a big shock, even if you had prepared yourself for the possibility of your tests being positive. Advances in science, medicine, and technology mean that many people are cured of cancer or live with it for many years. Despite this, a cancer diagnosis can cause different fears and emotions for you and your loved ones.
Living with prostate cancer can affect your everyday life, work, and relationships. If you are struggling to cope, try not to hide your emotions. Talk to your family and friends.
If you think speaking to a professional might help, ask your doctor for the details of local counselling services to get you the help you need.
Testosterone is mainly made by the testicles and controls how the prostate works. Hormone therapy lowers the amount of testosterone in your body, which can affect your overall mood, including your desire for sex. You may feel tearful or angry, or just not your usual self. These feelings are normal and can be caused by hormone therapy.
Will I be able to work?
For some men, returning to work helps them get back to everyday life. But not everyone can continue working. You may decide to work part-time or take early retirement. There is no right or wrong answer.
You may need to take time off work, depending on the treatment options offered to you. You may also need to take extra breaks at work, particularly if you are feeling exhausted.
You might find it helpful to look at your company policies and employee handbook or speak to the Human Resources department at your workplace for more advice.
Will I be able to travel?
If you drive, you need to be very careful about how your treatment is affecting you. Do not drive if you are tired or do not feel well. If you plan to travel abroad, having cancer can affect where you go and how long you go away. Having cancer should not stop you from travelling. Still, it may affect travel insurance, car hire insurance, what you need to take with you, and the activities you do while you are away.
If you have advanced prostate cancer, you may hear the term supportive, or palliative, care. The focus of palliative care is to manage any pain you have and help find ways of coping with distressing symptoms. It also provides support for your family and for people looking after you.
Palliative care is not just for men in the final stages of their life, but it does include support to help you prepare for this. Various professionals will be on hand to help manage your symptoms and offer you and your family the emotional and practical support you need. The type of professionals and services available to you will depend on your needs and your local area.