What You May Want to Know About Bowel Dysfunction During and After Prostate Cancer Treatment
(Read time: 5 minutes)
This article is not intended to replace professional medical care or advice. If you have any questions or need additional information, please talk with your doctor.
In 2022, the American Cancer Society estimated nearly 270,000 new cases of prostate cancer in the U.S. To put that into perspective, about one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. If detected early, localized prostate cancer is associated with a high survival rate.1
While some may be familiar with common treatments for prostate cancer — such as surgery, radiation therapy, and active surveillance — some may not know about potential side effects, like bowel dysfunction.2,3
Understanding these potential side effects and possible ways to mitigate them may help maintain your quality of life.
What is bowel dysfunction?
Bowel dysfunction is a broad term for a range of side effects that patients might experience during or after prostate cancer treatment. Such side effects can occur at varying levels of severity and may include:3,4
- Frequent stools
- Fecal incontinence
- Inability to control bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding (in severe cases)
How can prostate cancer treatment cause bowel dysfunction?
During prostatectomy surgery, which is surgery to remove all or part of the prostate tissue, damage to the rectum is rare, affecting <2% to 3% of men. Bowel changes in the first few weeks after surgery are likely the result of the body adjusting to increased abdominal space with the loss of the prostate.3
Radiation therapy can cause bowel dysfunction – in fact, bowel dysfunction is more common following external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) than other therapies. This happens because EBRT blankets a large area with radiation, and since the rectum (or bowels) are next to the prostate, radiation targeted to the prostate may also affect the rectum.3,4
As the effects of radiation accumulate over time, bowel function tends to stay the same or deteriorate, rather than improve.3 According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, two years after radiation treatment for prostate cancer, 10% to 20% of men report persistent diarrhea a few times each week.3
Reducing the risk of bowel dysfunction should be a priority
Although radiation therapy for prostate cancer has a record of success,3–5 providing long-term survival in some cases, the potential for bowel dysfunction may be a factor in your decision when choosing a treatment pathway.SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel is designed to help reduce prostate cancer radiation therapy side effects.6 Learn more.
There have been recent advances in prostate cancer treatment, such as radiation therapy techniques and dose planning strategies.3 A rectal spacer such as SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel may lessen the radiation impact to the rectum by pushing the prostate farther from the rectum.7–9
Learn more about the side effects of prostate cancer treatment and how SpaceOAR Hydrogel may help reduce side effects from radiation and maintain your quality of life.8
Find a Doctor Near You Who Offers SpaceOAR Hydrogel
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*Please note, there may be other doctors in your area who treat prostate cancer not listed here.