Managing side effects of prostate cancer

Treatment for prostate cancer may damage nerves and muscles near the prostate, bladder and bowel. This may cause side effects including urinary incontinence, changes in bowel habits, erectile dysfunction and infertility. Lower testosterone levels as a result of ADT can also cause loss of interest in sex (libido).

Side effects will vary from person to person. Some men will not have any, while others may experience a few. Side effects may last for a few weeks or be permanent. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce or manage side effects. Many go away in time and most men are able to continue to lead active lives after their treatment.

For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry if every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back. 

Some people say that they feel pressure to return to ‘normal life’, but they don’t want life to return to how it was before cancer. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and reestablish a new routine at your own pace. Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had cancer, and provide you with your information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.

Learn more about:

Common side effects

EBRT Brachytherapy ADT
Erection problems  •  •  •  •
Loss of libido  •  •  •  •
Dry orgasm  •  •  •  •
Urine leakage during sex  •      
Infertility  •  •  •  •
Urinary problems  • •   •  
Bowel problems    •    •
Fatigue  •  •    •
Skin irritation    •    
Hot flushes        •
Osteoporosis        •
Heart problems        •
Breast growth        •
Mood swings        •

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Dealing with feelings of sadness

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.

Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication – even for a short time –  may help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Your local Cancer Council may also run a counselling program.

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) and beyondblue have information about coping with depression and anxiety. Contact PCFA on 1800 220 099 or, or visit or call 1300 224 636.

This information was last reviewed in March 2018
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