September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a time when we bring attention to prostate cancer to raise awareness and support those affected.
You may not realise it, but prostate cancer impacts more people than you’d think. Around 1 in 5 Australian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives, with 21,800 men diagnosed in Australia annually. This is a huge percentage of men dealing with the side effects of prostate cancer treatment.
And with prostate cancer surgery having such a big impact on the body, specifically the pelvic region, it’s super important to take recovery seriously. This is especially true if a person encounters negative side effects, such as incontinence or sexual dysfunction following prostate surgery.
If you are one of the thousands of men in Australia looking for support post-prostatectomy, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a closer look at what a prostatectomy is and its potential complications. Then, we’ll give an overview of the support services that can help, specifically those from a pelvic physiotherapy clinic like Sydney Pelvic Clinic.
What Is a Prostatectomy?
A prostatectomy is a type of prostate surgery where some or all of the prostate gland is removed. While a person may need their prostate removed for a number of medical reasons, a prostatectomy is most commonly performed to treat prostate cancer.
There are two different ways medical professionals can perform a prostatectomy: open or laparoscopic surgery and robotic prostatectomy. The choice between open and robotic surgery will depend on different factors related to a person’s health, the progression of the disease, and the surgeon’s experience.
How Does a Prostatectomy Impact the Body?
A prostatectomy procedure can greatly impact the body, leading to different complications during recovery. The two most common problems a person faces post-prostatectomy are incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
It is extremely common for a person to deal with mild to severe incontinence post-prostatectomy.
When we talk about incontinence, we’re talking about a condition involving the inability to retain or hold urine. People who have undergone a prostatectomy can have problems with bladder control following surgery, leading to urinary leakage.
The main symptoms of post-prostatectomy incontinence are:
- Increased sudden urge to urinate
- Urinary leakage after urination, also called post-micturition dribble
- Bladder leakage during lifting/straining/coughing, etc.
It’s important to note that urinary incontinence is very common in recovery from a prostatectomy, impacting approximately 90% of men. Typically, it will take someone 3-12 months to regain full bladder control following surgery. If you’ve experienced these symptoms for longer, despite optimising pelvic floor muscle function, it’s time to contact a medical professional.
Erectile Dysfunction and Intimacy Issues
Some post-prostatectomy patients may find they have problems with intimacy following prostate removal, experiencing erectile dysfunction.
Common symptoms include:
- Being unable to get hard enough to achieve penetration
- Having a hard time maintaining an erection
- Losing confidence during sex
- Losing your erection at some point during intercourse
- Leaking urine during climax.
Having trouble getting erect and maintaining an erection is a common side effect of a prostatectomy, as the nerves and blood vessels in that area of the body heal. Like incontinence, some patients heal erectile dysfunction issues with time, slowly regaining their sexual function. For others, though, help from a healthcare provider may be needed to address this condition.
Luckily there are pelvic physio treatments out there that can help those struggling with erectile dysfunction, helping them on the road to recovery.
Seeking Support Post-Prostatectomy
If you are struggling with side effects following a prostatectomy, a pelvic physiotherapist can help you to recover.
We understand that it can feel private or embarrassing to discuss symptoms like incontinence or erectile dysfunction with a medical professional. Many can end up suffering in silence post-prostatectomy for fear of bringing up their symptoms with others.
But with 240,000 men in Australia living with the impacts of prostate cancer, it’s important to realise you’re not alone. Plenty of men are impacted by prostate cancer, prostate surgery, and recovery. Many of them see wonderful results when they seek support post-prostatectomy when facing complications like incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
How a Pelvic Physio Can Help
A pelvic physiotherapist can be hugely beneficial following prostate cancer treatment. Much of the impact of prostate surgery is felt in the pelvic region, as the prostate is one of the many organs held by the pelvic floor muscles.
Many people with side effects, like incontinence or erectile dysfunction, can find a lot of help in recovery when using pelvic floor physiotherapy. Some pelvic health treatments could include:
Pelvic Floor Muscle Training
Pelvic floor muscle training or Kegels can do a lot to help with prostate surgery recovery, especially for those experiencing incontinence. With this therapy, your pelvic floor physiotherapist will guide you through pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. This can help you regain bladder control, helping with incontinence.
Your pelvic physiotherapist can also help through bladder training exercises. These include physical therapy exercises to relax the pelvic floor, tracking bladder use, and scheduling toilet breaks to help improve bladder control and reduce the frequency of toilet use and/or bladder leaks.
Focused Shockwave Therapy
Focused Shockwave therapy – better known as Low-Intensity Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (LiESWT) – is another treatment your physio can administer to address erectile dysfunction post-prostatectomy. This is a type of treatment that addresses vascular-related erectile dysfunction.
Using a low-frequency transmitter, small sound waves are applied to targeted areas of the tissue to promote the formation of new blood vessels and treat erectile dysfunction. While it’s most often used for erectile dysfunction, this therapy can also be applied to the bladder to address bladder overactivity.
Find Post-Prostatectomy Support at Sydney Pelvic Clinic
Facing recovery following a prostatectomy can feel isolating, but you are not alone! The team at Sydney Pelvic Clinic is fully prepared to help you explore treatment options if you’re looking for recovery support. Whether you want to address certain symptoms or seek education and resources, we’re here to help.
Want to learn more? Click here and book an appointment today.