Most people feel a sense of relief when they complete their prostate cancer treatment.
They are finished with the rigors of the procedures, and the “invader” has been driven from their body. If you have reached this phase of your treatment, enjoy it, and then make plans with your medical team for follow-up care.
Why is follow-up care necessary?
You may be in one of two groups after your prostate cancer treatment. Some men require ongoing treatment with hormones or other therapies, and some men walk away with no need of immediate further treatment.
If you are in the first group, you need to have your treatments monitored to be sure you are getting the maximum benefits and minimum side effects. Men in both groups need to be checked at regular intervals to see if the prostate cancer has come back. Catching a recurrence early always gives you the best chance of fighting off the cancer again.
What is involved in follow-up care for prostate cancer?
Your doctor will test your PSA levels at least once a year for five years after your prostate cancer therapy. PSA measures should fall to very low levels within 30 days after the end of your treatment. If they begin to rise, this may indicate a recurrence of the cancer.
If you are receiving hormone therapy, your doctor may check your bone density and testosterone levels at regular intervals. If you are experiencing side effects like anemia or hot flashes, you can talk to your doctor about making adjustments to the medication.
You may continue to receive digital rectal exams. These help to detect cancer after treatment just as effectively as they do before.
Psychological care is also available for men that struggle with depression or anxiety after recovering from prostate cancer. If your anxiety about the cancer coming back is debilitating, you may be helped by counseling. Counseling may also help if you are having trouble coping with the incontinence or erectile dysfunction that may result from prostate cancer treatment.
General self-care after prostate cancer
There are no magic pills that will keep you from getting another occurrence of cancer after your prostate cancer has been treated. There are, however, general lifestyle choices you can make to improve your overall health.
You may want to talk to your doctor about diet and exercise. There is some evidence that obese men have poorer outcomes when they get prostate cancer. Vigorous exercise may also improve survivor rates, but the evidence is not conclusive.
If you are taking hormone therapy, you may need to consider supplementing with vitamin D and calcium to protect your bone density.