Approximately 165,000 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States are estimated for this year alone. Prostate cancer affects around eleven percent of adult men, with the prevalence higher in men aged 65 and above. Fortunately, prostate cancer now has a very high survival rate, currently pegged at 98%.
The key to overcoming prostate cancer lies in early diagnosis and immediate treatment. However, prostate cancer treatments tend to be very strong, having several side effects. Knowing how prostate cancer medications will impact your health will help you manage the side effects better.
#1 Hormonal Changes
Androgens are sex hormones that deal with the development and regulation of male sex characteristics. Of the five androgen hormones secreted by the endocrine glands, testosterone is the most well-known. It is also the primary sex hormone involved in the prostate’s development.
Testosterone is responsible for various functions such as sperm cell production, libido, bone and muscle mass development, muscle strength, as well as the production of red blood cells.
Unfortunately, for men with prostate cancer, testosterone is bad news. The sex hormone is a fuel for the growth and spread of prostate cancer, hence various prostate cancer medications target the inhibition of testosterone activities. This means that your testosterone level will drop.
As your testosterone level decreases, you will most probably experience weight gain. You may also start losing some muscle mass and your bones will start becoming weaker. Depression and hot flashes are also common side effects. Your risks of developing diabetes, heart diseases, and hypertension will also increase.
The good news is that the hormonal changes you will experience are reversible. This means that as soon as your doctor says you can stop taking the medication, you can start recovering your normal testosterone levels.
Your body will gradually start producing testosterone again, but you can also go for hormone replacement therapies to recover your testosterone levels faster.
To prevent bone and muscle mass loss, you can also undergo weight training and regular exercise while you’re taking the prostate cancer medications. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation will also help.
#2 Erectile Dysfunction
Various treatments for advanced prostate cancer can cause temporary erectile dysfunction. If you go through radiation therapy or prostate cancer removal surgery, the nerves near your prostate may be affected. Even nerve-sparing prostatectomy can cause you to lose your erectile function after the surgery.
Impotence after such procedures are usually temporary, and the recovery period can differ. However, there are also instances wherein erectile dysfunction becomes permanent.
Whether it will be just temporary or permanent will be influenced by how your erectile functions were like before surgery or radiation therapy, your age, and how close the prostate cancer was to the erection-controlling nerves.
It’s a good thing that you still have options to recover your ability to achieve erections even after prostate surgery or radiation therapy. Your doctor can prescribe penile injectable medications, sildenafil, or tadalafil to help you achieve erections. You can also opt to have a penile implant or you can use penile vacuum pumps.
If your prostate is completely removed, it means you no longer have the capability to produce semen because the prostate is the organ that’s responsible for seminal fluid production. This also means that fathering a child will no longer be possible once your prostate is removed.
For men who go through chemotherapy, pelvic radiation therapy, or prostatectomy, sperm banking is an option. This way, you will have sperm available if you wish to father a child after your prostate cancer treatment.
Since the prostate gland sits around your urethra, if you have it removed or if you go through radiation therapy for prostate cancer treatment, you may find it hard to control your urine flow after the treatment.
Urinary incontinence or the lack of control over your urine flow is a common side effect of prostatectomy, and you may experience leaking urine during unexpected times like when you’re laughing hard or when you sneeze.
Limiting your alcohol as well as caffeine intake will help you better manage your incontinence. Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which mean that they promote urine formation. Kegel exercises are also often recommended for better urine flow control.
Fatigue is a common effect of cancer treatments. Going through radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy can be physically draining. Although you may feel that you no longer have any energy left, you should try your best to exercise daily.
Even if it’s just low-intensity, any physical activity can help you fight the effects of cancer treatments. More often than not, you will be in pain because of cancer and the treatments. As your body focuses on dealing with the pain, you may feel that exhausted and unwilling to move. However, keeping yourself moving is actually one way to deal with the pain and fatigue.
In addition, as you exercise, you will feel more energized. Your mood will also be lifted as your body produces endorphins when you exercise. Moreover, exercising will help you sleep better so that your body can get enough rest at night so that you can recover faster.
Sufficient hydration and proper nourishment will also enable your body to better fight the aftereffects of cancer. You also have the option to consult your doctor about taking dietary supplements to help you manage the side effects of prostate cancer treatments.
For instance, there are dietary supplements that can help boost your energy, like those containing tongkat ali or ginseng. Tongkat ali is known for its muscle strength enhancing properties, plus it can help you fight off fatigue.
There are also male sex enhancement supplements that contain tongkat ali, and these can help you recover your libido and erectile function. You may also want to take male sex enhancement supplements that contain testosterone boosters like Tribulus terrestris.
Puncture vine or Tribulus terrestris is also known to contain many antioxidants, which can help you recover your health. This popular medicinal plant is also known to have potent aphrodisiac properties and is a great natural remedy for erectile dysfunction.