Having surgery for prostate cancer
This page tells you about having an operation for prostate cancer. There is information about
Before prostate surgery
Before your operation you will see your surgeon and anaesthetist. You may also see a specialist nurse. They will explain what the operation involves and what to expect. Your doctor will ask you to sign a form saying that you agree to have the operation.
You may also have some tests to make sure that you are fit enough to have the surgery. For example, you may have blood tests, a chest X-ray, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check that your heart is healthy
Immediately after your operation for prostate cancer
When you come round after your operation you may have a drip into your arm and a tube to drain the wound. You will also have a tube (catheter) into your bladder to drain your urine.
You will be encouraged to move about as soon as possible. Your nurses or physiotherapist will help you do deep breathing and leg exercises to help stop chest infections and blood clots.
You will almost certainly have some pain for the first few days. If you are in pain it is important to tell the nurse or doctor straight away so they can find the right type and dose of painkiller for you.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating prostate cancer section.
Before your operation your surgeon will need to do some tests to be sure you are fit enough to make a good recovery. You may have had some general tests when your cancer was being diagnosed. If so you may not need to have them again. You are likely to be asked to have these tests in the outpatient department. But some hospitals do them when you come into hospital the day before your operation.
Tests you may have
The tests may include
- Blood tests to check your general health and kidney function
- A chest X-ray to check your lungs are healthy
- An ECG to check your heart is healthy
- A CT scan or MRI scan
The scans show your specialist how far the cancer has grown and whether it has spread. You may also have breathing tests (called lung function tests).
Information about the operation
When you go into hospital for your operation the anaesthetist and often a member of the surgical team will see you. The doctors will give you a detailed explanation of what to expect and how you will feel when you come around after your anaesthetic. They will ask you to sign a consent form for the operation.
Do ask as many questions as you need to. It may help to make a list before you go into hospital for your operation. There are some suggestions for questions at the end of this section. Many people find that the more they know about what is going to happen, the less frightening it seems. Don’t worry if you think of more questions later. Just speak to your nurses. Some people prefer not to know much about what is going to happen don't want to ask questions. If that’s how you feel, that’s fine. It is entirely your decision.
You may have a drip (intravenous infusion) put into a vein in your arm before your surgery so that you can have fluids. This makes sure you are not dehydrated before your operation. But if you have been eating and drinking normally you may not need this.
Your nurse or a physiotherapist will teach you breathing and leg exercises. You can help yourself to get over your surgery by doing these exercises after your operation. You should do them as often as you are told you need to.
Breathing exercises will help to stop you getting a chest infection. And leg exercises will help to stop clots forming in your legs. These can happen when you are not moving around as much as you normally would. So your nurses will encourage you to get up and about as soon as possible after your operation. But if you have had major surgery, you may need to stay in bed for the first couple of days.
Below is a short video showing breathing and circulation exercises after surgery. Click on the arrow to watch it. Please note: although this video shows a woman doing the exercises, they are the same for men.
View a transcript of the video showing breathing and circulation exercises after surgery (opens in new window)
Because you have had major surgery and an anaesthetic, you may feel a bit lost and confused when you wake up on the ward. This can be frightening and may make you feel as if you have no control over things. Staff will be very aware of this and visit you often to see if you need anything. You will have a call bell close by so that you can call for help whenever you need it.
Drips and drains
Depending on the operation that you have had, you may have several different tubes in your body. This can be a bit frightening. But it helps to know what they are all for. You may have
- Drips (intravenous infusions) to give you fluids until you are drinking again
- A tube into your bladder (catheter) so that your urine output can be measured
You may have a couple of electric pumps attached to your drips. These control any medicines you are having through the drip, and keep them going in at a steady rate.
If you have surgery to remove your prostate gland you may also have a small drainage tube near your wound. This drains away fluid that collects and so helps your wound to heal. The tube can come out once it has stopped draining any fluid.
Monitoring your pulse, oxygen levels and blood pressure
You may have a blood pressure cuff on your arm when you first wake up. A small clip on your finger may measure your pulse (called a pulse oximeter) and check your oxygen levels. You may also have an oxygen mask on for a while. You'll have your blood pressure taken quite often for the first few hours after you come round from the anaesthetic. Your urine output may also be checked because it can help to show whether you are having too much fluid or are getting dehydrated.
Most people have some pain after surgery. You will need painkillers for at least a few days if you have had removal of the inner area of the prostate gland (TURP). You may need the painkillers for longer if you had your whole prostate removed (a radical prostatectomy).
This section of the website has detailed information about the different types of prostate cancer surgery. You can find more information about side effects of surgery and about going home in the information about removing the inner part of the prostate and removing the prostate gland.
We have detailed information about the other treatments for prostate cancer and their possible side effects. You can also phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions.
Our prostate cancer organisations page gives details of other people who can give information about prostate cancer treatments. Some organisations can put you in touch with a cancer support group.
Our prostate cancer reading list has information about books, leaflets and other resources discussing treatments.
If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.
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