Prostate Cancer: Surgery
Prostate cancer may be treated with surgery. Different kinds of surgery
may be done. Which type you have depends on the type of cancer, where
it is, how much it has spread, and other factors. Surgery removes all
or most of the prostate gland. After surgery, a man will not be able to
Goals of surgery for prostate cancer
Prostate cancer surgery can be done for different reasons. Most often,
surgery is a treatment for early-stage prostate cancer. In this case,
the goal of the surgery is to remove all of the cancer.
Surgery to try to cure the cancer is less likely to be an option if the
cancer has spread outside of the prostate. In this case, a surgery may
be done to help relieve symptoms from the cancer, such as trouble urinating.
But this surgery will not remove all of the cancer.
If you are considering surgery to treat your prostate cancer, be sure you
understand what the goal of the surgery is.
Types of surgery for prostate cancer
Prostate cancer can be treated with:
Radical prostatectomy. This surgery removes the whole prostate gland and some nearby tissue. The
surgery may be done with a long incision in the abdomen. Or it may be
done with an incision in the area between the scrotum and the rectum (perineum).
Laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. This is also a surgery to remove the whole prostate gland and some nearby
tissue. It is done with a few small incisions instead of one larger incision.
A laparoscope is used to do the surgery. This is a thin, flexible lighted
tube with a tiny camera at the end. Special small tools are used with
the scope. The surgery may also be robotic-assisted. This means it is
done by a health care provider using a control panel to move robotic arms
that hold the tools. Laparoscopic surgery can lead to a shorter stay in
the hospital, less pain, and quicker recovery time. This is because it
uses small incisions.
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). This surgery removes part of the prostate gland. It's done with a small
tool that is put inside the prostate through the urethra. There is no
incision with this method. TURP is used to relieve symptoms. It is not
used to cure the cancer.
Cryosurgery. This procedure is also known as cryotherapy. This surgery kills cancer
cells by freezing them. This is done with a small metal tool placed in
the tumor. The health care provider makes a tiny incision in the skin
and inserts a thin metal probe into the prostate. Liquid nitrogen is then
put into the probe to freeze the cancer cells. This treatment is most
often only used if other treatments don't work.
Risks and possible side effects of surgery
All surgery has risks. The short-term risks of surgery for prostate cancer include:
- Excess bleeding
- Blood clots
- Damage to nearby organs or tissue
The possible long-term side effects include:
Incontinence. Incontinence is trouble controlling urine. This can range from slight
leakage or dribbling of urine to complete loss of bladder control. Problems
urinating are usually worst just after surgery. Normal bladder control
returns for many men within several weeks or months after surgery. Some
men may have long-lasting problems.
Erection problems (erectile dysfunction or impotence). For a few months after surgery, most men will not be able to get an erection.
But over time, many men will again be able to get an erection that allows
them to have sexual intercourse. They will not have ejaculation of semen,
since removal of the prostate gland prevents that process. The effect
of surgery on a man's ability to achieve an erection is related to
the extent of the surgery, the man's ability to have an erection before
surgery, and the man's age. However, most men who have surgery should
expect some decrease in their ability to have an erection. For men who
have erection problems after surgery, different types of medicines or
devices might be helpful.
Talk with your health care provider about the chances of side effects affecting
you after surgery. Keep in mind, though, that health care providers can
only give you their best estimates. No one can guarantee that you will
not have side effects.
Getting ready for your surgery
Before you have surgery, you will talk with your surgeon. After you have
talked about all the details of the surgery, you will sign a consent form.
This gives the surgeon permission to perform the surgery.
You will also talk with an anesthesiologist. This is the health care provider
who will give you the general anesthesia, the medicine that prevents pain
and makes you sleep during surgery. He or she also monitors you during
surgery to keep you safe. He or she will ask about your medical history
and your medicines.
What to expect during surgery
On the day of surgery, you will be taken into the operating room. Your
health care team will include the anesthesiologist, the surgeon, and nurses.
During a typical surgery:
- You will be moved onto the operating table.
- You may need to wear special stockings on your legs. These are to help
prevent blood clots.
- You will have electrocardiogram (EKG) electrodes put on your chest. These
are to keep track of your heart rate. You will also have a blood pressure
cuff on your arm.
- You will be given anesthesia through an IV tube in your hand or arm.
- When you are asleep, the surgeon will do the surgery.
- A urinary catheter will be put into the bladder during surgery. It will
be kept in place for at least a few days.
What to expect after surgery
You will wake up in a recovery room. You will be watched closely by health
care providers. You will be given medicine to treat pain. Depending on
the type of surgery, you might need to stay in the hospital for one or
After surgery you will have follow-up appointments with your surgeon and
other health care providers. Make sure to keep your appointments. If you
have any problems or concerns, contact your health care team.