What to expect after prostate cancer surgery

From how to prepare for surgery to what you can expect during the recovery process, we explain everything you need to know about prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the UK’s second most prevalent cancer – and the most common cancer in men. Over the last ten years, the rate at which prostate cancer has been diagnosed has significantly increased. Approximately 35% of new cases of prostate cancer every year are found in men aged 75 and over. While this could be viewed as a bad thing, this may actually be a positive sign that more men are getting tested for prostate cancer.

There are a number of risk factors that increase the chances of a person developing prostate cancer. Firstly, you need a prostate. While women, people assigned female at birth and intersex people do have prostates, the type of prostate is often different from the male prostate. As such, cancer in the female prostate (known as the skene glands) is rare. When we talk about prostate cancer, in almost all cases, it is in reference to the male prostate. As such, prostate cancer affects men, people who were assigned male at birth and some intersex people. Other risk factors include:

  • Genetics and familial history,
  • Age,
  • Lifestyle,
  • Concurrent medical conditions

Regarding the ethnic demographic of men at risk, black African and black Caribbean men are most at risk, while Asian men are least at risk.

Depending on how advanced the cancer is, treatment can vary. However, prostate cancer surgery is always an option – and, in some cases, the only option – in treating prostate cancer. The main type of surgery used to treat prostate cancer is a prostatectomy. In the case of prostate cancer, this is almost always a radical prostatectomy (the removal of the entire prostate gland and surrounding lymph nodes).

In this post, Better Healthcare is going to walk you through everything you need to know about prostate surgery, the procedure itself and what to expect after prostate cancer treatment.

Preparing for prostate surgery

Firstly, you should expect several tests to be done to assess your suitability for surgery. This can include checking if you are suitable for anaesthesia and a test to determine if you will make an effective recovery from surgery. You may also have lung function tests, an echocardiogram (heart test), an electrocardiogram (ECG), chest x-ray and blood tests. You will meet the surgery team for a pre-assessment. This is your opportunity to ask any questions or address any concerns about the procedure.

At home, you’ll want to prepare for your recovery from surgery by stocking up on pre-prepared or easily-prepared food, loose-fitting clothing and absorbent pads. You may also want to ask friends or family if they can help you with everyday tasks such as shopping and cleaning post-surgery. Should you not wish to involve your friends and family, you can always employ a home care worker from Better Healthcare to help around the home.

Prostate cancer surgery

There are a number of surgical approaches that may be employed during a prostatectomy, namely: open surgery, robot-assisted keyhole surgery and keyhole surgery by hand. Your surgical team will discuss (or have discussed) with you the advantages and disadvantages of these procedures.

You’ll head into the hospital either a day before or on the day of the operation. Prostate cancer surgery will take somewhere in the region of two to four hours, but this can vary. As you will be under a general anaesthetic, you won’t feel anything during the operation.

Your prostate, as well as the seminal vesicles, will be removed. The surgeon will attempt to save some nerves attached to the prostate that aid in (if you have a penis) being able to get an erection; although this isn’t always possible as the cancer may have spread to this area. However, it’s important to note that this should not affect your ability to have orgasms, nor should you lose any feeling in the penis.

What to expect after surgery

Once the operation is complete, you will be brought to the prostate cancer recovery room. You will wear an oxygen mask to aid with breathing while the anaesthetic wears off. You’ll have an IV drip in your arm to keep your body hydrated and to offer pain relief, and a temporary catheter will be used to ensure that urine is being drained from your bladder. There may be a temporary tube placed where the prostate used to be.

After you are released from the hospital, usually after one to seven days, you may note some pain or discomfort – and there may be bruising and swelling in the genital area. Loose fitting clothes, such as tracksuits, can help – as can supportive underwear such as testicle support underwear or even a jock strap. However, if the swelling gets worse and lasts more than a few weeks, make sure to talk to your doctor. You will likely feel fatigued for the first few weeks and this is normal.

While your catheter is in place – usually for one to three weeks – you’ll have to look after it. You should avoid obstructing the tube and you should keep the area around the tube clean to avoid infection. This can be done with warm soapy water. You should also keep yourself well hydrated with water and raise your intake of fibre to reduce the risk of constipation as this could affect how well your catheter can drain.

If you’ve had keyhole surgery, your wound will heal within a few days and the stitches should fall out on their own within a week or two. If you’ve had open surgery, the stitches will need to be removed by your GP or at a hospital after a couple of weeks. In general, your body will take a few months to heal – perhaps even up to a year.

It can be a good idea to secure some temporary care to help you with everyday tasks if you are struggling to keep up with caring for yourself and your surroundings while you recover. A carer can help you manage with daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, going to the shops and can even help with personal care. This could also contribute to faster recovery times as you are not pushing or straining yourself too much during the recovery process. One such provider of live-in and at-home care is Better Healthcare Services.

The finest of care from Better Healthcare

With qualified carers that specialise in helping to support people as they recover from major surgery, Better Healthcare is your first choice to help you, or a loved one, through the prostate cancer recovery process.

We offer a service that can be tailored to suit the individual needs of clients. Whether it’s just a couple of hours of home care services a week, or it’s full-time live-in care, Better Healthcare’s carers have the experience and patience to provide quality, meaningful and compassionate support to those who need it.

If you, or a loved one, is heading in for prostate cancer surgery, or you are struggling to cope with the pressure of self-care and maintaining your home, simply give Better Healthcare a call on 0800 668 1234 or get in touch with your closest regional office today.

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This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.

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