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Problems after surgery

There is a risk of problems or complications after any operation. Many problems are minor but some can be life threatening. Treating them as soon as possible is important. Find out about possible problems after surgery for prostate cancer. 

Infections

You will have antibiotics to reduce the risk of developing an infection after surgery. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms of an infection. They include:

  • feeling generally unwell
  • shivering
  • feeling hot and cold
  • feeling sick
  • swelling or redness around your wound

Chest and breathing problems

Chest infections, including pneumonia, can be serious. Treatment is antibiotics.

You can lower your risk by:

  • stopping smoking before your operation
  • getting up and moving as soon as possible after your operation
  • doing the breathing exercises your physiotherapist teaches you

Erection problems

You might have a problem having an erection (impotence) after a radical prostatectomy.

Impotence is more likely to happen if you are older. Nerve sparing surgery and robotic surgery reduce the risk for some men. Speak to your doctor before you have surgery to get an idea of your risk of problems afterwards. 

If your surgeon had to remove nerves during surgery, you are likely to have erection problems.  

There are medicines that can help with erection problems after surgery. You might need a drug like sildenafil (Viagra) to help you get an erection. Your doctor or specialist nurse can also refer you to a clinic for people who have sexual problems after treatment. You can store sperm before your operation if you would like to have children in future. 

Leakage of urine

You might have problems controlling your bladder (incontinence) after a radical prostatectomy. Ask your surgeon how likely it is that you might have a problem with this after surgery.

If you have problems you can wear incontinence pads. Your doctor can refer you to a special clinic if leakage becomes a problem. They will teach you muscle exercises to control your bladder. Medicines can also help to relieve this symptom.

Feeling tired and weak

Most people feel weak and lack strength for some time afterwards. How long this lasts varies.

Tell your doctor or nurse if the weakness continues for more than a few weeks. They can suggest things to help, such as physiotherapy.

Last reviewed: 
19 Jun 2019
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    UpToDate, June 2016.

  • Long-term quality-of-life outcomes after radical prostatectomy or watchful waiting: the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group-4 randomised trial.
    E Johansson, and others.The Lancet Oncology, 201. Pages 891-899.

  • Sexual dysfunction following radical prostatectomy
    C.R Benson, and others
    Journal of Andrology, 2012. Volume 33, Pages 1143-1154 

  • Quality of life and satisfaction with outcome among prostate-cancer survivors.
    M. Sanda and others.
    New England Journal of Medicine, 2008. Volume 358

  • EAU Guidelines on prostate cancer. 2015
    N. Mottet and others

  • Prostate cancer
    British Medical Journal (BMJ) Best Practice Online, 2018. 

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