Treating Prostate Cancer-Side Effects of Treatments

Side Effects of Treatment

All prostate cancer treatments can cause side effects. The most common side effects are sexual, urinary, and bowel problems. Some of these problems happen soon after treatment and others develop over time. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any of these side effects. There may be a way to help.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) means not being able to keep an erection for intercourse. ED is the most common long-lasting side effect. It can happen with any treatment.

Urinary problems are another long-lasting side effect. This can mean leaking or dribbling urine. It can also mean sometimes not being able to hold your urine at all. Urinary problems are more common after surgery than with other treatments.

Bowel problems can also be a long-lasting side effect. This can mean sometimes having “bowel urgency” (needing to have a bowel movement right away and not being able to wait). Long-lasting bowel problems are more common after external beam radiation or hormone treatment than after prostate surgery or with watchful waiting.

Hormone treatments can have other side effects. They can cause hot flashes, breast swelling, and loss of sex drive. They can also cause tiredness, depression, and memory problems. Hormone treatments can weaken bones and raise the chance they will break.

  • 57 out of 100 men who take hormone medicines have hot flashes (sudden feeling of warmth and sweating).
  • 25 out of 100 men who take hormone medicines have breast swelling.
The chart below shows research about long-lasting side effects 2 years after treatment. Erection problems are common with all treatments. Bowel problems are more common with external beam radiation. Urinary problems are more common with prostate surgery.
Comparing Side Effects 2 Years After Treatment 
(number of men out of 100)
External Beam
Erectile Dysfunction
(no erections at all)
33 58 43 86
Urinary problems
(leaking urine)
7 35 12 11
Bowel Problems
(bowel urgency)
16 14 29 16