September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer? At the age of 60, I was one of those men and now I am a prostate cancer recovery coach - sharing my prostate cancer journey with others to help them through their experience.
Many men want to know what prostate cancer surgery is like, including what to expect before surgery and what to expect afterwards.
Here are my findings based upon more than 1,000 phone calls to men the day before surgery, almost 700 visits to men the day after surgery and hundreds of calls from men in the weeks following surgery.
- Most men experience very little surgical pain - probably 80 percent are like me...I had my surgery on a Monday; by Friday I was at a graduation party (catheter and all). I got by with only Advil for pain relief. It's been described as feeling like they did too many sit-ups.
- Men (who have not had experience with one) really fear the catheter. I let them know that they will be asleep when it is put in. They may be like me and sleep very well with it in. Changing bags from a large capacity night bag to a smaller capacity day bag is simple and doesn't involve removing the catheter. Walking with the day bag catheter is not a problem. Removal of the catheter is usually done in the doctor's office after the prescribed timeframe (usually 1-2 weeks) and is relatively pain-free.
- If all goes as planned, you will be walking the night of surgery and then the next day. Most men go home the following afternoon, unless they are otherwise directed by the doctor.
- Your biggest discomfort may be from gas pains, hence the walking. For a robotic surgery, they have to fill the body cavity with gas to manipulate the equipment. Until we get rid of the gas in the normal way we do, there can be discomfort.
- You may wake up from surgery feeling a strong urge to urinate. This is because the balloon at the end of the catheter, that holds it in place in the bladder, is putting pressure on the bladder and the brain is sending a signal to go pee. Not to worry, it is going into the catheter bag.
- When you get home, you should be able to get around as you did before and not be confined to a bed or chair, unless of course your doctor has given other orders.
- Have loose fitting clothes like PJ's, sweat pants or shorts for when you leave the hospital to accommodate the catheter. You don't need to wear pads for leakage when you leave the hospital.
- When you visit the doctor's office to have the catheter removed, have men's incontinence pads with you, as you will be leaking. Make sure you also have the right type of underwear. Boxers will not work with pads, normal cotton briefs may work well though. If your leakage is heavy, you may need a compression style underwear. This simply is a brief that has a slightly longer leg and is made from a stretch material, not cotton.
This style undergarment can greatly help with using pads with confidence. The pad will gain weight from urine, and compression will hold the pad in place thereby reducing the risk of leaks, which will cause embarrassment. Pads are found in the incontinence section of any pharmacy. Make sure to get men's pads. Compression style shorts are found in the men's underwear section of any Target, Walmart, etc. All major brands carry them, just make sure they are not cotton.
- In most cases, leakage will come under control in a few weeks or months. Avoid caffeinated beverages that may give you a strong urge to urinate and can lead to leakage. Carrying a few pads in your back pocket will allow you to discreetly change them and go through the day as usual. You will become familiar with when it is time to change the pad. Don't let leakage alter your lifestyle to any great degree.
- Recovery is quick from the surgery, there is almost no blood loss, and in many cases, very little, if any scarring will take place.
Phil Shulka is a prostate cancer recovery coach and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.