Prostate Cancer Treatment Issues

Life altering complications can result from prostate cancer treatment, and it’s important that you have a clear understanding of the risks. Sometimes treatment is neither required nor recommended. Some men prefer to wait as long as possible, while others feel uncomfortable putting off treatment. The choice, ultimately, is an intensely personal one.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor and Yourself

Your doctor or urologist can provide you with many of the answers you need. When discussing your options, be sure to ask at least the following questions:

  • Does the cancer require immediate treatment?
  • Has it metastasized?
  • How fast growing is the tumor?
  • What are the side effects of medical interventions?
  • If you choose to wait, what monitoring techniques will be used to assess your ongoing health?

In addition, there are a number of personal questions you need to ask yourself. They include:

  • Am I comfortable delaying treatment?
  • Am I willing to accept possible impotence or incontinence which may occur as side effects?
  • Can I live with my current symptoms?
  • Which will impact my life more: medical side effects or my current symptoms?

Impotence, Retrograde Ejaculation and Infertility

Surgery and hormone therapy can cause a number of sexually related side effects, including erectile dysfunction. Before undergoing treatment, you should ask what the chance of impotence is. Some medical interventions have a higher risk of impotence than others. Only you can decide if your need for treatment outweighs possible erectile dysfunction.

Retrograde ejaculation can occur as a result of medical procedures, such as TURP. Semen is still excreted by the prostate, but is pushed backwards into the bladder, instead of forwards. Sexual activity and orgasm are still possible, but retrograde ejaculation usually results in infertility.

Sperm Banks

If you are worried that prostate treatment may cause infertility, consider using a sperm bank. A sperm bank deposit means that you and your partner will still be able to have a child even if surgery or other cancer-fighting options leave you infertile.

Urinary Incontinence and Bowel Problems

Prostate tumors can press onto the urethra, causing urinary incontinence and other urination difficulties. Surgery carries the possibility of damaging nerve endings and causing bladder problems or incontinence. Existing symptoms need to be balanced against possible urinary incontinence. For most men, surgery-caused incontinence is limited to occasional leaking. Others may need to wear protective undergarments, and a very small percentage requires permanent catheters.

Men who receive radiotherapy for prostate cancer or have a prostatectomy may suffer from bowel disorders. These include rectal bleeding, diarrhea, or bowel incontinence. Fortunately, for most men, these conditions generally improve over time, and treatment is available.


National Cancer Institute. (updated 2002). What you need to know about prostate cancer. Retrieved January 29, 2003, from

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2002). HHS issues cancer incidence data by state for first time. Retrieved January 28, 2003, from

National Library of Medicine. (updated 2002). Prostate cancer. Retrieved January 29, 2003 from

Pogliano, D. (revised 2000). A primer on prostate cancer. Retrieved January 23, 2003 from