Individual and Couple Side-Effects After Radical Prostatectomy: Personal Reflections from a Research Scientist

Walter Schumm


Objectives: To provide medical staff who provide support to prostate cancer patients more detailed information on how side effects are experienced by those patients as well as the limitations of generally recommended treatments from the perspective of a patient who is also a research scholar. As the author experienced side-effects, it became apparent that side-effects and their treatments were more complex than he had been informed prior to his treatment. Some medical staff may not know as much as they should about such details, limiting their ability to help patients in their recovery from radical protatectomy.

Methods: As a qualitative study, throughout four years after experiencing radical prostatectomy, the author kept notes on his experiences, and those of acquaintances who had the same surgery about the same time, with bowel, urinary, and sexual side effects of the procedure, how those effects changed over time, and varying results obtained from recommended treatments. At the same time, the method was enhanced by a review of numerous books and scientific articles for related material on side-effects and their treatment that were relevant to the author’s experiences.

Results: There are some positive outcomes from radical prostatectomy other than the cure of cancer; however, negative side-effects were more prevalent. Most of those with whom the author discussed their side-effects reported disappointment, regardless of their source of treatment, because of their limited success in managing at least some of the side effects, especially sexual side-effects. Some of the recommended treatments require greater knowledge for successful implementation than often provided by medical staff. Overcoming side-effects often requires support from the cancer patient’s partner or family and may not be achievable without that support. Several scales to measure aspects of these issues were developed but remain to be tested for reliability and validity.

Conclusions: Patients need more detailed information on side-effects prior to selecting a treatment method so they can make more informed choices for their own treatments. More detailed information is needed on how to implement treatments for side-effects as well as involvement of their partners and family in dealing with side-effects, especially sexual side-effects. In terms of future research, there is a need for improved measurement of the side-effects of cancer treatment as well as potential family support during/after treatment.


radical prostatectomy;prostate cancer; cancer; urological oncology; sexual side-effects; couple/family systemic effects

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