Life after prostate cancer

For many men, a diagnosis of prostate cancer brings the fear of the unknown and questions about what life with and after cancer will mean. Care providers at St. Joseph’s Health Care London offer many supports for patients undergoing prostate cancer surgery.

Patients of St. Joseph’s Hospital urologist Dr. Stephen Pautler are given an education video at their surgical consultation featuring a former patient. The video follows the patient through the preadmission visit, offers advice on: what to expect on the day of surgery, home care support, catheters, specialized physiotherapy, follow up, and includes video clips of operations.

Dr. Pautler says there’s a great need for education tools to make the surgical consultation process more efficient and alleviate patient fears, “Prostate cancer patients are dealing with a very stressful situation and are usually scared out of their wits. Studies done in the U.S. show patients only retain 10 per cent of the information they are told during their consultation with a doctor/surgeon and they don’t always understand the information discussed.”

The majority of prostate cancer patients at St. Joseph’s undergo a procedure called a robotic radical prostatectomy that consists of removing the cancerous prostate gland and related structures. Although this surgery performed using the daVinci surgical robot is minimally invasive, there are still side effects, the most common being urinary incontinence (the involuntary leakage of urine) and erectile dysfunction.

While recovery after surgery varies depending on the patient, Dr. Pautler along with other St. Joseph’s urologists work with each individual to create a recovery treatment plan, “Through our erectile dysfunction clinic, patients work with Dr. Brock to regain sexual function and are provided various treatment options for incontinence offered by Drs. Brock and Welk,” says Dr. Pautler.

While 70-75% of men have a return of sexual function to a satisfactory level after their prostate cancer surgery, drug therapy is often used to aid the process. Patients are prescribed phosphodiesterase inhibitors, more commonly known as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra. In some cases a patient’s sexual function returns in the first six months but more commonly it takes one to two years.

Survivorship is also an important part of the healing process.

“Recovery from prostate cancer surgery takes time and mental recovery is just as important as physical recovery, keeping positive does make a difference,” adds Dr. Pautler. St. Joseph’s also offers non-denominational spiritual care for prostate cancer patients and connects them with various community supports.