You don’t need to suffer in silence. There are ways to take control of the symptoms of prostate cancer and its treatment. Read on to find out how!
INCONTINENCE (can be caused by surgery or radiation). For most men this symptom will improve or stop completely a few weeks or months after the treatment is complete.
To help in the meantime … Try Kegels. These exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. They are performed by contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles (the ones you use to stop the flow of urine). Your doctor can teach you how to do Kegels correctly or refer you to a pelvic floor physical therapist. Do 10 repetitions three times a day, perhaps while commuting to or from work or when you’re sitting down for a meal.
IMPOTENCE (can be caused by surgery, radiation or hormone therapy). While this symptom may diminish after surgery heals, it can be a challenge for those who have had radiation and for those on hormone therapy.
To help in the meantime… explore new avenues. When you’re feeling sexual again, remember that intercourse is not the only way to achieve satisfaction, and intimacy is not defined by sex. Nonsexual touching-such as holding hands and hugging-can help you stay connected.
Another way to stay close to your partner is to find out what activities bring them joy and do them together, such as going to a show or out to dinner, recommends Anthony Provazza, an oncology clinical social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
FATIGUE (can be caused by any treatment option). While this symptom typically diminishes once treatment ends, it can be a challenge for those on long-term hormone or immunotherapy medications.
To help in the meantime… Tell loved ones how they can help you. When Jim Higley, author of Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew (Greenleaf Book Group, 2011), was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he gave each of his three kids and his friends “jobs” to do.
His youngest son’s assignment was to hug him every day, his daughter’s role was to give him a daily dose of encouragement via cards and “cheers,” and his older son’s job was to play the guitar for him. “Despite the heaviness of what was around me, I felt blessed,” he recalls.
DEPRESSION (can be caused by any treatment option). This symptom can also be caused or worsened by the cancer diagnosis itself. Sometimes it can improve on its own when treatment ends, though it’s often important to discuss the symptom with your healthcare provider and possibly seek treatment for it.
To help in the meantime… Take charge of pain. Pain often leads to depression, so work with your doctor to make sure it’s under control, advises Deane Wolcott, MD, director of oncology supportive care at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “If you manage pain well, depression often improves dramatically;’ he says.