What to expect the first days after prostate cancer surgery

Surgery for any condition can be scary and unsettling. The “what if’s” to “what to expect” need answered for reassurance that everything will go smoothly. For men facing an upcoming surgery for prostate cancer, it’s vital they understand and know what to expect in the first few days both before and after the procedure. Men going into surgery feeling confident of their decision and their doctor, are more likely to have a successful outcome.

It helps if a man can talk to other men about their prostate cancer surgery experiences within the first few days of their surgeries. At the very least, men should have an in-depth, frank discussion with their urologist performing the surgery to know what to expect.  The good thing to know is recovery from prostate cancer surgery is relatively quick, but keep in mind, the experience is different for every man.

Here are some questions you may have about what happens in the first days after prostate cancer surgery:

  • How much pain will I experience after the surgery? 

While in the hospital, you may experience some pain and will be likely be given pain medication by mouth and initially through a vein (intravenously) in your hand or arm. Before you go home, your doctor will also give you a prescription for a pain medication once released from the hospital. Most patients can manage pain at home with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil).

  • Will I have a catheter? 

When you wake up after surgery you will have a urinary catheter. A catheter is put in after you have been put to sleep. If you have never had a catheter before, catheters are a tube inserted through your urethra into your bladder to drain urine. The catheter will be connected to a bag that is taped to your leg. Have loose-fitting clothes like sweat pants or shorts for when you leave the hospital to accommodate the catheter. Before you leave the hospital, your nurse will show you how to use the catheter. You will probably need to keep the catheter in for a week or two. Removal of a catheter is usually done at the doctor’s office after the prescribed frame and is relatively pain-free.

  • How soon do they allow me to walk after surgery?

 If the surgery goes as planned, the same day of your surgery! You will probably be kept for observation for one night and if you are doing well, you will be going home the next day, walking. Once home, you should be able to get around as usual and not confined to a bed or chair. Be sure you understand and follow your doctor’s instructions on movement and exercise.

  • Will I have constipation after surgery? 

The combination of anesthesia, lessened activity, and narcotic pain medicine often creates problems with bowel function. You may be prescribed stool softeners or laxatives. Drinking fluids, walking and eating frequent, small, easily digestible meals and fruit will help relieve constipation.

  • Will there be any swelling after surgery?

 You may experience fluid weight gain and swelling after surgery. This is usually the result of getting fluids during surgery as well as having any lymph nodes removed during surgery, which temporarily lessens the ability of your body to manage fluids. This may result in swelling in your legs, lower abdomen, and scrotum.

  • Will I experience urine leakage after surgery?

While the catheter is in place, you should not experience leakage. On the day it is removed, likely at the doctor’s office, bring men’s incontinence pads with you as you will be leaking. Wearing briefs rather than boxers will help keep the pads in place better. Men’s incontinence pads are found in the incontinence section of any pharmacy, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Make sure to buy men’s pads. In most cases, leakage will get under control in a few weeks or months. It helps to avoid caffeinated beverages that can cause a strong urge to urinate leading to leakage. Always have a few pads with you at all times wherever you go in a backpack allowing you to discreetly change them throughout the day.

Final thoughts

Remember, there are no “bad” questions. It’s important for all men facing prostate cancer surgery to have their concerns and questions addressed allowing them confidence in a successful outcome. Always ask what is on your mind and keep asking until you get a satisfactory answer.

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