Living with prostate cancer 

Depending of the type of prostate cancer you have, your life may be affected in different ways.

Unlike many other types, most prostate cancers get worse slowly. Men may have it for years without symptoms. During this time, men with low-risk prostate cancer (which has not spread beyond the prostate gland) may not need treatment.

About one in five men with prostate cancer has a fast-growing cancer. Men whose cancer is more likely to spread may decide to have surgery or radiotherapy, which aims to cure the cancer. However, these treatments can have side effects.

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Impact on everyday activities  hide

If you have no symptoms, prostate cancer should have little or no effect on your everyday activities. You should be able to work, care for your family, carry on your usual social and leisure activities and look after yourself. However, you may be understandably worried about your future. This may make you feel anxious or depressed, and affect your sleep.

If your prostate cancer progresses, you may not feel well enough to do all the things you used to. After an operation or other treatment, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, you will probably feel tired and need time to recover.

If you have advanced prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of your body, you may have symptoms that slow you down and make it difficult to do things. You may have to reduce your working hours or stop working altogether.

Whatever stage your prostate cancer has reached, try to give yourself time to do the things you enjoy and spend time with those who care about you.

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Complications of prostate cancer  show

Erection problems

If you have erectile dysfunction, speak to your GP. It may be possible to treat you with a type of medicine known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5). PDE5s work by increasing the blood supply to your penis.

The most commonly used PDE5 is sildenafil (Viagra). Other PDE5s are available if sildenafil is not effective.

Another alternative is a device called a vacuum pump. It is a simple tube connected to a pump. You place your penis in the tube and then pump out all the air. This creates a vacuum which causes the blood to rush to your penis. You then place a rubber ring around the base of your penis. This keeps the blood in place and allows you to maintain an erection for around 30 minutes.

Urinary incontinence

If your urinary incontinence is mild, you may be able to control it by learning some simple exercises. Pelvic-floor exercises can strengthen your control over your bladder.

To carry out pelvic-floor exercises:

  • Sit or lie comfortably with your knees slightly apart.
  • Squeeze or lift at the front as if you were trying to stop the passage of urine, then squeeze or lift at the back as if you were trying to stop the passage of wind.
  • Hold this contraction for as long as you can (at least two seconds, increasing up to 10 as you improve).
  • Relax for the same amount of time before repeating.

If your urinary incontinence is more severe it may be possible to treat it with surgery. This would involve implanting an artificial sphincter – a sphincter is a muscle used to control the bladder.

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Relationships  show

Being diagnosed with prostate cancer often brings families and friends closer, although it can put pressure on relationships too.

Most people want to help, though they may not know what to do. A few people find it hard to talk to someone with prostate cancer, and may try to avoid them. Being open and honest about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put others at ease. But do not feel shy about telling people you need some time to yourself, if that is what you need.

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Talk to others show

If you have questions, your doctor or nurse may be able to reassure you, or you may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor, psychologist or specialist telephone helpline. Your GP surgery will have information on these.

Some men find it helpful to talk to other men with prostate cancer at a local support group or through an internet chat room.

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Money and financial support  show

If you have to reduce or stop work because of your prostate cancer, you may find it hard to cope financially. If you have prostate cancer or are caring for someone with prostate cancer, you may be entitled to financial support.

  • If you have a job but cannot work because of your illness, you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer.
  • If you do not have a job and cannot work because of your illness, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.
  • If you are caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
  • You may be eligible for other benefits if you have children living at home or if you have a low household income.

Find out early what help is available to you. Speak to the social worker at your hospital, who can give you the information you need.

Free prescriptions

People being treated for cancer are entitled to apply for an exemption certificate, giving them free prescriptions for all medication, including medicine for unrelated conditions.

The certificate is valid for five years, and you can apply for it through your GP or cancer specialist.

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Prostate cancer treatment stories

A group of men describe their experiences of the side effects of prostate cancer treatment.

Darcus Howe

'My battle with prostate cancer'

Darcus Howe discusses how prostate cancer is an illness that affects many African-Caribbean men

Prostate cancer trials

If you have a prostate cancer that's proving difficult to treat, a clinical trial can offer several advantages

Prostate cancer research

Research is ongoing to find a test that can accurately distinguish between aggressive and passive prostate cancers

Page last reviewed: 06/11/2012

Next review due: 06/11/2014