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  • Looking after yourself after treatment for prostate cancer

    Contents

    Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain. It’s important to try to look after your well-being as much as possible.

    Nutrition

    Eating healthy food can help you cope with treatment and side effects. A dietitian can help you manage special dietary needs or eating problems, and choose the best foods for your situation.

    For more information about nutrition call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Nutrition and Cancer.

    Staying active

    Physical activity may help to reduce tiredness, improve circulation and elevate mood. The amount and type of exercise you do depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice.

    For more information about exercise call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Exercise for people living with cancer.

    Complementary therapies

    These therapies are used with conventional medical treatments. You may have therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture to increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Let your doctor know about any therapies you are using or thinking about trying as some may not be safe or evidence-based.

    Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medical treatments. These therapies, such as coffee enemas and magnet therapy, can be harmful.

    For more information about complementary therapies call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Understanding Complementary Therapies.

    Relationship with others

    Having cancer can affect your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. This may be because cancer is stressful, tiring and upsetting, or as a result of more positive changes to your values, priorities or outlook on life.

    Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening and do the same for others. People may deal with the cancer in different ways, for example by being overly positive, playing down fears or keeping a distance. It may be helpful to discuss your feelings with each other.

    Sexuality, intimacy and fertility

    Cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors such as treatment and side effects, your self-confidence, and if you have a partner. Although sexual intercourse may not always be possible, closeness and sharing can still be part of your relationship.

    If you are able to have sex you may be advised to use certain types of contraception to protect your partner or avoid pregnancy, for a certain period of time. Your doctor will talk to you about the precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. If having children is important to you, talk to your doctor before starting treatment.

    For more information on sexuality, intimacy and fertility call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or download the booklets Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer, Fertility and Cancer and Emotions and Cancer.

    Life after 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 re-establish a new daily 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 information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.

    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. Cancer Council SA has a free counselling service which offers you an opportunity to discuss your cancer experience and its impact on your life. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

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

    What if the cancer returns?

    For some men prostate cancer does come back after treatment. This is known as a relapse or recurrence.

    If your prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels start to rise and the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate, this may mean you still have cancer cells in the prostate area. If this happens you may be given more treatment, known as salvage treatment.

    If you originally had surgery you may be given radiotherapy. If you had radiotherapy surgery may not be offered as the side effects are more severe following previous radiotherapy. However you may be offered androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) or another form of treatment. If the cancer has spread beyond the prostate ADT is usually recommended. Sometimes people have palliative treatment to ease their symptoms.

    It is possible for the cancer to come back in another part of your body. In this case you may have treatment that focuses specifically on the area of your body where the cancer has returned.

    Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

    After treatment: follow-up

    After treatment you will need regular checkups to monitor your health and see whether the cancer has returned. This will involve testing your PSA level at regular intervals.

    Your PSA levels will vary depending on the treatment you received. After surgery your PSA level should drop quickly to 0 or close to 0, as there are no prostate cells left to produce the antigen. After radiotherapy your PSA level will drop gradually and it may take 2–3 years for your PSA to reach its lowest level. If you have ADT as well as radiotherapy your PSA levels will generally be quite low while undergoing treatment.

    Your doctor will decide how often you need check-ups or a PSA test. Over time, if there are no further problems, your check-ups will become less frequent. If you notice any new symptoms inbetween check-ups you should let your GP or specialist know.

    PSA test results

    The PSA is only one test and it might not accurately reflect what is happening to the cancer. The PSA test can be useful early in the disease, to allow diagnosis and monitor the need for treatment, and to detect the return of the cancer. As the cancer progresses the PSA test becomes less useful.

    Your doctor will also consider any symptoms you might or might not have, and the results of other blood tests and scans. These all help to build a picture of what is happening to the cancer that is more accurate and informative than just the PSA test alone.

    This website page was last reviewed and updated April 2017.

    Information last reviewed April 2016 by: A/Prof Nicholas Brook, Consultant Urological Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital and Clinical Associate Professor in Surgery, University of Adelaide, SA; Prof Ian Davis, Professor of Medicine and Head of Eastern Health Clinical School, Monash University and Senior Oncologist, Eastern Health, VIC; A/Prof David Smith, Senior Research Fellow and Cancer Epidemiologist, Cancer Council NSW, NSW; A/Prof Peter Reaburn, Associate Professor in Exercise and Sport Sciences, CQU, QLD; Sylvia Burns, Senior Cancer Specialist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Robyn Tucker, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Cancer Information and Support, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC.

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