Other physical side effects

Prostate cancer and its treatment can affect your body and physical health. Lots of treatments for prostate cancer cause short-term or long-term side effects. These can often be managed or treated.

There are lots of ways to get support for physical side effects - let your doctor and nurse know. If they can't help then they can refer you to other services, even if it's been a while since you had treatment for prostate cancer.

You can also speak to our Specialist Nurses, in confidence over the phone or online.

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Fatigue (extreme tiredness)

Fatigue is a range of feelings from tiredness to exhaustion, which makes it hard to carry out your daily activities. Men describe feeling weak, lethargic, knackered or drained.

It can affect your energy levels, motivation, ability to concentrate, emotions and sex drive. Many men find it difficult to cope with fatigue - and it's not always relieved by rest alone.

Fatigue could be caused by any prostate cancer treatment. It might improve after your treatment has finished but some men find it lasts longer. Hormone therapy in particular can cause extreme tiredness. And men who have advanced prostate cancer are also more likely to have fatigue.  

Where can I get help?

Let your doctor or nurse know how you feel and if you're getting very tired.  They can check what's causing it and look for ways to help.

It could be your treatment that's causing the fatigue, but there can also be other causes such as the cancer itself or other conditions.

If you have extreme tiredness as a result of prostate cancer and treatments, our Get back on track service could help you manage your fatigue so you can do the things you want to do. It's a ten-week telephone service delivered by our Specialist Nurses. Call them on 0800 074 8383 to find out more.

What else can help?

Sort out your daily routine, prioritise important tasks and make time for rest.

Gentle physical activity such as walking or swimming can help to reduce tiredness. Speak to your doctor before you make any changes to how you exercise.

If you are struggling to eat enough and you've lost weight, this could add to your tiredness. Ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian for advice about your diet. Get more information and diet and physical activity.

Lots of things can help with sleep problems, including relaxation techniques and dealing with any worries that you are keeping you awake. Your GP can give you advice on what could help you sleep and they will sometimes prescribe a short course of sleeping pills.

Get support if you are feeling depressed or anxious, as this can be related to tiredness in people with cancer.

Some research shows that some alternative therapies can help people with cancer manage tiredness. These types of therapies include: acupuncture, breathing control, muscle relaxation, massage, yoga and different types of meditation.

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Bowel problems

Radiotherapy for prostate cancer (external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy) can cause bowel problems for some men. Radiation can cause the lining of the bowel to become inflamed (proctitis) which then leads to symptoms such as:

  • loose and watery bowel movements (diarrhoea)
  • passing more wind than usual
  • needing to go to the toilet more often, or having to rush to the toilet
  • feeling an urge to have a bowel movement, but then not being able to go
  • a feeling that your bowels haven’t emptied properly
  •  pain in the stomach area (abdomen) or back passage
  • bleeding from the back passage – this is rare.

Some men find that changes to their bowel habits settle down a few weeks after finishing treatment. For others, the changes last longer. Some men get bowel problems months or years after treatment.

What can help?
Tell your GP, doctor, nurse or radiographer about any changes in your bowel habits. They can give advice and support to help manage them. There are medicines available to help with symptoms and control diarrhoea.

Your local continence services can assess your bowel problems and offer advice about treatments. The continence service provides care and advice for people with bladder or bowel problems and is usually run by specialist nurses. Ask your GP to refer you.

If you have long term bowel problems, ask to be referred to a bowel specialist (gastroenterologist). You may have a further test to check for any damage to the bowel.

How can I manage bowel problems myself?
Living with bowel problems can be distressing, and for a lot of men it's not an easy thing to talk about. But remember that doctors and nurses often help men with these issues. They're used to discussing the problem and finding ways to deal with it.

You may find it helpful to plan ahead and find out where toilets are before you go out, and carry absorbent pads.

If you are having problems with diarrhoea, eating less fibre for a short time may help. Low fibre foods include white rice, pasta and bread, potatoes (without the skins), cornmeal, eggs and lean white meat. Speak to your doctor, nurse or radiographer before changing your diet.

Foods such as beans and pulses, cruciferous vegetables (for example, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower), fizzy drinks and beer can all cause wind and bloating so you may want to avoid these. Chewing your food slowly can also help. Read more about diet and physical activity.

Bowel problems and anal sex
If you’re gay, bisexual or a man who has sex with men, and are the receptive partner (‘bottom’) during anal sex, then bowel problems after radiotherapy may be a particular issue. Read our information for gay and bisexual men.

Macmillan Cancer Support and the Bladder and Bowel Foundation produce detailed information about coping with bowel problems.

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