Problems after surgery

There is a risk of problems or complications after any operation. Many problems are minor but some can be life threatening. Treating them as soon as possible is important. Find out about possible problems after surgery for prostate cancer. 


You have antibiotics to reduce the risk of developing an infection after surgery. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms of an infection. They include:

  • feeling generally unwell
  • shivering
  • feeling hot and cold
  • feeling sick
  • swelling or redness around your wound

Chest and breathing problems

Chest infections, including pneumonia, can be serious. 

You can lower your risk by:

  • stopping smoking before your operation
  • getting up and moving as soon as possible after your operation
  • doing any breathing exercises your physiotherapist teaches you

If you get an infection you have antibiotics to treat it. 

Erection problems

You might have problems having an erection (impotence) after a radical prostatectomy. Or you might produce less or no semen (dry orgasms). 

Impotence is more likely to happen if you are older. Nerve sparing surgery and robotic surgery may reduce the risk for some men. Speak to your doctor before you have surgery to get an idea of your risk of problems afterwards. 

If your surgeon had to remove nerves during surgery, you are likely to have erection problems.  

There are medicines that can help with erection problems after surgery. You might need a drug like sildenafil (Viagra) to help you get an erection. Your doctor or specialist nurse can also refer you to a clinic for people who have sexual problems after treatment. You can store sperm before your operation if you would like to have children in future. 

Leakage of urine

You might have problems controlling your bladder (incontinence) after a radical prostatectomy. Ask your surgeon how likely it is that you might have a problem with this after surgery and how long it may take to recover. Some men may never get back full control.

If you have problems you can wear incontinence pads. Your doctor can refer you to a special clinic if leakage becomes a problem. They will teach you muscle exercises to control your bladder. Medicines can also help to relieve this symptom.

Feeling tired and weak

Most people feel weak and lack strength for some time afterwards. How long this lasts varies between people.

Tell your doctor or nurse if the weakness continues for more than a few weeks. They can suggest things to help, such as physiotherapy.

Coping and support for you and your family

Coping with the side effects of prostate cancer surgery can be difficult. There are things you can do, and people who can help you and your family to cope. 

Last reviewed: 
19 Jun 2019
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