People without prostates can live full and healthy lives. However, there are side effects to be aware of.
Prostate removal surgery is sometimes done to treat prostate cancer. Removing the prostate can cure prostate cancer and dramatically improve survival odds.
However, there are side effects to prostate removal. None of these side effects will shorten your life span, but they can affect your everyday life.
The prostate is responsible for creating the fluid that carries sperm out of the body and ejaculating it during sexual activity. Without a prostate, sperm has no way of leaving the body. This means prostate removal always leads to infertility. This side effect is permanent.
Other common side effects include erectile dysfunction and incontinence. Unlike infertility, these side effects are typically temporary and respond well to treatment.
What does prostate removal mean?
Prostate removal is an all-inclusive term. It can refer to either:
- Complete removal of the prostate, including its capsule and the seminal vesicles (also called a radical prostatectomy). This is usually done only as treatment for prostate cancer.
- Removal of benign prostate tissue (simple prostatectomy) to relieve obstruction, which is causing difficulty urinating. This leaves the capsule and seminal vesicles intact.
The side effects of each approach will be different. There are also multiple approaches and techniques for each procedure.
Although there are side effects, prostate removal surgery is not linked to a shortened life span. None of the side effects associated with removal are life threatening. In most cases, side effects can be treated.
Prostate removal surgery has one side effect that is always permanent: loss of fertility. After prostate removal, it’s no longer possible to make semen or ejaculate. This makes it impossible to get sperm outside the body. This change is unavoidable and untreatable.
Other side effects can vary depending on your body’s response to the surgery, your recovery, and your life before surgery.
For instance, many of the side effects of prostate removal surgery are related to sexual function and sensation. Since ejaculation is no longer possible after prostate removal, orgasms following surgery will be dry orgasms. This can be a big change.
Additional changes to sexual function and sensation might include:
- erectile dysfunction
- difficulty achieving orgasm
- loss of sexual sensations generated by prostate stimulation
- decline in sexual desire, though this is often psychological and can be overcome
Not all side effects of prostate removal are sexual. Other possible side effects include:
Some side effects are temporary and can be treated while they occur. For example, urinary incontinence after prostate removal generally resolves within about 2 months. The nerves that affect erections and penile sensations typically recover in 6 months to 1 year. There are also nerve-sparing surgical techniques that attempt to minimize impotence or loss of sensation.
The treatments for the side effects of prostate removal depend on the specific effect on the severity. Your doctor will tailor your treatment plan to your specific symptoms and overall health.
Not all side effects can be treated. For example, there’s no treatment for infertility following prostate removal. However, there are standard treatments for two of the most common side effects: urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
Treatments for urinary incontinence following prostate removal
- Pelvic floor exercise: Pelvic floor exercises are physical therapy exercises that can strengthen pelvic walls and better control the flow of urine.
- Bladder training: A physical therapist can help with bladder training exercises to help retrain the bladder for better control.
- Medications: Prescription medications can help control the muscles in the bladder.
Treatments for erectile dysfunction following prostate removal
- Medications: Prescription medications can help achieve erections. These may also be started before the procedure.
- Injections: Injected medications used shortly before sexual activity can be used to achieve erections.
- Vacuum devices: A vacuum device, or a penis pump, brings blood into the penis to create an erection. Vacuum devices can also help with penis size and shape.
- Penile implants: A penile implant is a device surgically implanted into the penis. These devices last for 10 to 15 years and can provide a lasting solution.
You can learn more about life after prostate removal surgery by reading the answers to some common questions.
What does the prostate do for you?
The prostate is responsible for making the fluid that transports sperm out of the body. During ejaculation, the prostate squeezes and releases this fluid. The prostate and seminal vesicles produce 90% of semen.
Can a prostate grow back once removed?
Yes. The prostate can sometimes regenerate. This can happen if any part of the prostate, no matter how small, is left behind. This doesn’t always happen, though. Regrowth depends on a number of individual factors.
This side effect is more common after a simple prostatectomy, in which part of the prostate is purposefully left intact.
Does prostate removal shorten life expectancy?
No. Prostate removal does not shorten life expectancy. The prostate is responsible for important functions that help with human reproduction, but it doesn’t handle any functions that sustain life. You don’t need it to stay alive.
Can you get an erection without a prostate?
Yes. Although it’s very common to experience a decline in erectile function right after surgery, this effect typically isn’t permanent.
Can you drink alcohol after prostate removal?
It’s not a good idea to drink alcohol immediately following prostate removal surgery. Drinking after surgery can slow healing and increase your risk of side effects.
Once you’ve recovered, it’s generally safe to drink a moderate amount. Talk with your doctor about what this means for you.
Prostate removal surgery can completely remove prostate tumors and cure prostate cancer. It can also result in side effects. The most lasting side effect of prostate removal surgery is infertility. This side effect is permanent and irreversible.
Other side effects include incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and other difficulties with penile function. These side effects are typically temporary. Treatments, such as medication and physical therapy, can help resolve them.
None of the side effects of prostate removal affect life span. Although the prostate is necessary for fertility, it’s not necessary to sustain life. There’s no connection between prostate removal and a shortened life span.
In fact, because prostate removal is most often done as a cure for prostate cancer, prostate removal often improves survival outcomes.