Prostate removal (prostatectomy) is usually recommended for men diagnosed with prostate cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body. Sometimes surgery is also suggested to help relieve urinary symptoms. Sometimes surrounding tissue and lymph nodes are also removed. It is major surgery, and may impact urinary control and sexual function. But with today's technology and surgeons, men can take comfort in shorter hospitalizations and reduced chances of side effects. Here's what to expect after your procedure.
Recovery time can differ depending on how strong you are going into surgery, or many other factors. Most men can expect to stay in the hospital for up to one week after surgery, and to have a full recovery within six weeks. Drink plenty of fluids to help flush out your bladder. Some men will notice blood in the urine after surgery. Your doctor may give you antibiotics or other medications to help fight off infections. Some pain and discomfort can be expected - especially around the incision site. You will need to keep the incision site clean. Most doctors say showers with mild soap and water are ok, but to stay away from baths.
Some loss of urinary control is possible. Bladder control is usually regained one to three months after the procedure. Some men may recover sooner. Depending on the type of prostatectomy, some men may also need to have a catheter after surgery, but only temporarily. Most catheters are removed within four to seven days after surgery. You will need to pay close attention to retrain your muscles that control urine flow after the catheter is removed. Walking and Kegel exercises can help strengthen those muscles, too. Some men wear bladder control pads to help deal with incontinence immediately after surgery.
Because the prostate is no longer present, some men report the inability to maintain or achieve an erection. Some men will regain potency within one year of surgery - for others it may be a continued problem. Doctors recommend you abstain from sexual activity for four weeks after surgery. While the feeling of climax will be the same, after prostate surgery there will be no ejaculation.
Other possible complications after surgery include fecal incontinence, bleeding, low blood sodium (usually after large amounts of fluids are used to flush the bladder), blood clots, wound infection and injury to the rectum. Call your doctor, or go to the emergency room if you have any of the following symptoms after surgery: fever, chills, shortness of breath, excessive bleeding, chest pain, abdominal pain or swelling, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, blood clots of bright red blood in your urine and other new or unexplained symptoms.