What Are the Most Common Complications Following Prostate Cancer Treatment?
An Overview of the Most Common Complications Following Treatment
What Are the Most Common Complications Following Prostate Cancer Treatment?
By Matthew Schmitz, M.D., About.com
Updated: January 9, 2009

What are the most frequent complications that can occur following the standard prostate cancer treatments?

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is probably the best known complication following treatment. Men who have undergone surgery, radiation, or hormonal therapies for their cancer face fairly high rates of ED afterward. Depending on the type of procedure and other underlying medical problems that the man may have, 50% may experience ED following treatment.

Many drugs such as sildenafil (better known as Viagra) have shown good results in men who have undergone treatment, while other options such as penile implants are available for treating ED as well.


Incontinence, or the inability to control one’s bowel or bladder function, is also fairly common following standard prostate cancer treatments. Prostate cancer itself can also result in this condition if untreated.

Incontinence may be temporary or permanent as well as treatable or untreatable. By changing their behavior (such as scheduling times to urinate each day), many men are able to deal with their incontinence in relatively simple ways. Similarly, many men practice special exercises that strengthen the lower pelvic muscles in order to provide better control over bladder function.


Pain can be present before, during, or after treatment has been completed. Most men have some pain in the days following surgery, but this usually dissipates. Other men may have significant pain associated with their prostate cancer and, once it is treated, their pain is greatly decreased or even eliminated.

Pain varies greatly from individual to individual, but a large variety of effective treatments exist for pain of all types.


One of the more commons complications of prostate cancer and its treatment is depression. For many men, prostate cancer is their first brush with their own mortality and this can be a cause for great concern and sadness regardless of how well their treatment works. The aforementioned complications (ED, incontinence, and pain) can cause significant mental strain as well.

While not as commonly addressed by the patient’s family or medical caregivers as other complications, depression is still a significant obstacle for many men. This is especially true in the short-term after diagnosis and treatment.

Again, a variety of options are available for getting through depression that may occur with prostate cancer. These may include the use of counseling or medication alternatives.
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