You have gone to your doctor after some tests and have heard the chilling words: "You have prostate cancer." You have explored the treatment options and you have chosen the traditional radical prostatectomy. This is major surgery. It involves making a surgical incision about 6 inches long, extending downward from just below your navel . This surgery usually requires a few days in the hospital.
After surgery, you will have a catheter for up to two to three weeks after the surgery. Recovery time can be as long as six weeks. I know. I am a prostate cancer survivor. I chose the radical prostatectomy. This article reflects my experience, my talking with many prostate cancer survivors, research and the support of my family. While prostate cancer affects each man differently, there are specific things you can do to prepare for the surgery and beyond.
Prior to your surgery, you will undergo pre-operative testing. This will include a bone scan and a CT scan of the abdomen as prostate cancer targets these areas. There will be the normal panels of blood and urine tests. Be sure to get a copy of every test result and take it with you on the day of the surgery. While you or your doctor will have sent the results to the hospital, things do get lost. Providing a copy of a missing test result can prevent the surgery being delayed or rescheduled.
Tell your doctor about all of your medications, including herbal medicines, as well as any drug allergies. If you are diabetic, you will want to pay special attention to keeping your glucose level in the safe range. The stress of a cancer diagnosis, as well as impending surgery can affect glucose levels. Follow any and all instructions about what to do and what medicines to take on the day of the surgery.
You will have many hospital forms to read and sign. Read each one before you sign it. Be sure you understand the possible side effects of the surgery. Ask questions. Update your living will, powers of attorney and your personal will. Your family should know where your personal papers such as wills, insurance, and legal documents are. While the radical prostatectomy has been a proven surgery, it has risks just as any surgery. Be ready for all possibilities.
The diagnosis of prostate cancer is not a death sentence. It is serious, but it is also very treatable and treatment breakthroughs happen all the time. Since surgery cannot be performed before the biopsy site heals, you will wait several weeks for your surgery. Don’t panic. Prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing cancer.
Learn all you can about the disease, its treatment and recovery. Ask questions. Your doctor and local prostate cancer awareness group can give you educational resources. Develop a family and friend support system. Attend a prostate cancer support group. Speak with other men who have had the surgery about their experiences. Let your family give you emotional support. Don’t try to shield or protect them. It affects them as well. Share your concerns and fears. Don’t go it alone.
Your religious tradition will shape your spiritual preparation. Talk to your clergy or other members of your congregation. If your pastor cannot visit you at the hospital, make arrangements for a visit from the hospital chaplain. If Holy Communion and anointing are part of your tradition, speak with your pastor about receiving these sacraments and blessings. Scripture passages giving assurance, reminding you of God’s love for you, and giving assurance of God’s presence can be helpful. Pray with your family. If you have not been practicing religious faith, a diagnosis of prostate cancer may cause you to think about God, faith, death, life after death and other issues. Local clergy are available to discuss these issues with you. The hospital chaplain is also a resource for discussing spiritual issues.
Plan to start walking as soon after the surgery as your doctor permits. Walking facilitates healing and reduces the chances of blood clots and pneumonia. At first, you will experience fatigue at walking just twenty feet. This is normal and your endurance will improve as you continue to walk.
Your care team will instruct you on cleaning your groin area around the catheter, maintaining your catheter bag, and wound care. You will receive instructions on weight limits to lift, how to sit, and ways to reduce strain at the surgical site. The recovery from surgery is usually four to six weeks. This allows the scar tissue to heal properly. A few weeks after surgery, you may begin to feel great. You consider becoming more active. You contemplate returning to work early. Resist the temptation. The scar tissue needs time to heal. If scar tissue doesn’t heal properly, irreversible problems such as incontinence can occur.
Prepare for Your Future-It’s Your Call
Follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. They will help healing and reduce complications. Get your doctor's clearance before starting an exercise program. Remember, each man is different in recovery time and the effects of the surgery. It is your life and body. You make the decisions and choices. Make the best decisions and choices with as much information as possible as well as a strong support system. Don’t second guess yourself. Once you make your decision, don’t look back. Above all, go for a cure and don’t give up hope.