Other Side Effects

Be Aware

You may be aware of some of the more common side effects of prostate cancer treatments, such as incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and hot flashes, but other side effects are also possible, depending on your type of therapy. The good news is you can take steps to manage these side effects. Some of the other potential side effects are discussed below.

If you experience any of these side effects, talk to your doctor first. Your physician will help you manage your side effects in a way that is right for you.


WEIGHT GAIN18

Treatments for prostate cancer that reduce testosterone levels can cause weight gain. Certain lifestyle changes can help you drop extra weight you may gain during your treatment

WHAT YOU CAN DO19

  • Opt for healthy, low-calorie foods, such as vegetables and fruits.
  • Eat whole grains and soups to feel more full.
  • Exercise regularly for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Increase your level of physical activity as you continue to exercise.
  • Always check with your doctor before changing your diet or starting or changing your exercise routine.

CHOLESTEROL LEVEL CHANGES20

Prostate cancer treatments that reduce testosterone can have a negative impact on cholesterol levels. After your prostate cancer treatment, you may have increases in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-C, and a decrease in HDL-C.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Eat foods that are low in saturated fats and higher in good fats, such as olive oil, and foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed.21
  • Exercise regularly. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before you start an exercise routine.19
  • Ask your doctor if you should take medicine to help lower your cholesterol.

BREAST PAIN AND ENLARGEMENT

Anti-androgen therapy (or estrogen in the body) can cause the breast tissue to become sensitive and painful, or it can increase the size of your breasts.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Talk with your doctor about possible treatments, including:

PENIS OR SCROTUM SHRINKAGE

Prostate cancer treatment can affect penis size. About 50% of patients who have prostate surgery are at risk for penis shrinkage, with the penis shortening from 0.2 inches to 1.6 inches.24

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Talk with your doctor before your prostate surgery to find out how likely penis shrinkage may be with the type of surgery you will have.

DRY SKIN

Some treatments, such as external beam radiation, may cause skin in the treated area to become red, dry, and tender.8,25

WHAT YOU CAN DO

You can help your dry skin by25:
  • Using cool water rather than hot water when showering or bathing
  • Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15
  • Avoiding perfumed moisturizers and other skin products in favor of mild ones
  • Patting dry following a shower, instead of rubbing with a rough towel
  • Wearing soft, nonbinding clothes
  • Washing clothes in mild detergent

HAIR CHANGES

You also may experience changes in the amount of scalp and body hair you have following your prostate cancer treatment.25, 26 Your scalp may feel tender, sore, or dry with hair loss in that area.26

WHAT YOU CAN DO25

To help protect your hair and skin during this time, and to cope with the loss of your hair, try:
  • Covering your head with scarves or hats (or consider wearing a wig)
  • Keeping your head covered in the sun and in cold weather
  • Keeping your hair and scalp clean, but avoid cleansing too often
  • Avoiding hair dryers and hair dyes, because they can cause your remaining hair to fall out more easily

MUSCLE WEAKNESS/PAIN

Treatments for prostate cancer that reduce the level of testosterone in your body can cause loss of muscle mass.27 You may also experience bone pain or loss of strength in your muscles with certain treatments.27,28

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Try regular strength training to help prevent or reverse the loss of muscle mass, but start slowly. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a weight training program.
  • Ask your doctor if over-the-counter preparations like glucosamine MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, may help relieve your muscle and joint pain.

FATIGUE

Fatigue, or feeling tired all the time, may persist until a few months after your treatment stops.

WHAT YOU CAN DO26

  • Take short naps during the day.
  • Save your strength to do the things that are important to you.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (8 cups of water or juice) each day.
  • Take short walks to increase your strength and energy.
  • Let others help you do things that you would normally do yourself.

ANEMIA

When your body doesn’t make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body, you may have anemia.26 Depending on how severe your symptoms of anemia are, your doctor may prescribe certain medications or vitamins to help boost your red blood cell count.

WHAT YOU CAN DO26

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • If you feel light-headed, stand up slowly. Be sure to tell your doctor if you feel dizzy.

TROUBLE CONCENTRATING OR REMEMBERING

Certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can affect your memory or ability to concentrate or think clearly. This condition is called cognitive impairment; it may also be referred to as “chemo brain” when the memory impairment occurs with chemotherapy.29

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Keep your mind stimulated:
  • Read your favorite books, magazines, and newspapers.
  • Do crossword puzzles.
  • Play chess with a friend.

DEPRESSION AND MOOD CHANGES

If you find yourself feeling sad for several weeks and no longer enjoy doing the things you used to like, you may be depressed. You may also experience wide emotional swings, such as being angry one minute and crying the next. You can get help with managing your depression.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Tell your doctor or other members of your treatment team how you are feeling. Your doctor can help determine if you have depression.
  • Talk with your doctor about counseling and other treatments to help your depression or mood changes.