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Advanced Prostate Cancer Treatment: Side Effects

Numerous side effects can happen during treatment for advanced prostate cancer. For many patients, the side effects disappear after treatment.

In some cases, certain side effects can be permanent. Fortunately, there are ways to know if you will have any side effects. There are also ways to find out the degree -- or if -- the side effects will reduce your quality of life.

Some men have many side effects, while others will have few, if any. Each person will react differently.

Here are some of the side effects you might face and ways to ease the symptoms:

Diarrhea. This can be caused by several treatments, including:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation to the prostate (less common with newer, focused techniques)
  • Hormone therapy, such as the anti-androgen drug flutamide

To help ease the symptoms, try the following steps:

Drink liquids. Drink 8 to 12 cups of clear liquids every day, such as:

  • Water
  • Apple juice
  • Sports drinks

Adjust your diet. Talk to your doctor about daily fiber supplements. Eat five to six small meals each day rather than three large meals. And eat foods that are easy on the stomach, such as:

  • Skinless broiled or baked chicken
  • Rice
  • Boiled potatoes

Avoid certain foods that are irritating to the intestine, such as:

  • Milk and dairy products
  • Spicy foods
  • Caffeine
  • High-fiber foods
  • Greasy foods
  • Fast food

Incontinence. If you have incontinence, you may leak urine when you laugh, cough, or sneeze. Or you might not be able to control the flow of urine. This can result from surgery to remove the prostate as well as from radiation therapy.

To help ease symptoms of incontinence, try this:

  • Reduce or avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Practice Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that control the flow of urine.
  • Ask your doctor about drugs or procedures to help control incontinence.

Erectile dysfunction (ED). This can be caused by several treatments for advanced prostate cancer, including:

  • Surgery (prostate removal)
  • Hormone therapy
  • Radiation to the prostate

There are several treatments to help with ED. These include drugs such as:

  • Viagra (sildenafil)
  • Levitra (vardenafil)
  • Cialis (tadalafil)

Other ED treatments include:

  • Penile injectable medications such as alprostadil
  • Vacuum erection device (uses suction to help achieve an erection and an elastic ring to help maintain it)
  • Penile implant

Infertility. This may happen after treatments for prostate cancer, such as:

  • Surgical removal of the prostate
  • Radiation of the pelvis
  • Chemotherapy

Because infertility may be permanent, patients who might wish to father children in the future should talk to their doctor before treatment about sperm banking to preserve their sperm for possible later use.

Hormonal changes. These can happen during hormone treatments, which lower testosterone levels. As with every treatment, the benefits must be weighed against the risks of cancer growth and progression.

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