Greater Boston Urology Blog

Preparing for a Radical Prostatectomy

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, your physician may recommend a radical prostatectomy to completely remove the prostate. Most likely, this means cancer cells have not spread to other parts of your body. For many, a radical prostatectomy procedure can be daunting, but surgically removing the prostate will eliminate the risk that cancer will travel to other areas.

As an industry leader in urological and men’s health issues, GBU is committed to helping its patients understand, prepare for, and recover from a radical prostatectomy. GBU’s team is here for you and your family, every step of the way.

As with all content on our blog, the following information is educational in nature, not medical advice. Always talk to your physician about your specific questions concerning prostate cancer.

[Editor's note: This article was reviewed and updated on 11/3/21.]

As with all major surgeries, there are risks involved with a radical prostatectomy. Understanding the overall process will help to ease your fears and prepare you for potential roadblocks throughout your journey. As always, openly discuss any potential concerns with your GBU team.

How to prepare for a radical prostatectomy

Prior to the procedure, you’ll complete a physical exam. Any chronic conditions or medical problems will be assessed and controlled. Be sure to share with your provider if you are taking any medications or supplements, regularly or sporadically. Tobacco users should develop a plan with their physician to quit smoking well in advance of the surgery.

In the weeks before your surgery, your physician may ask you to stop taking certain medications. The day before the procedure, you’ll drink only clear fluids. It’s important to refrain from eating or drinking the night before your surgery. Make sure to arrive at the hospital on time for your scheduled appointment the day of the procedure. 

What to expect during a radical prostatectomy procedure

With advances in surgical techniques, a radical prostatectomy is now more efficient and involves less pain and recovery time than ever before. A technique called laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (LRP) utilizes several small incisions and specialized instruments to remove the prostate.

The benefits of LRP include reduced blood loss and decreased hospital stays. GBU physicians are leaders in robotic surgery, a technique that may also be used to complete the procedure. After surgery, a catheter will be inserted for the first few weeks of the healing process. Expect to limit your activities for several weeks. For more detailed information on surgical procedures and common side effects, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.

What is the recovery time for a radical prostatectomy?

After surgery, it’s normal to feel fatigued. Expect to require more rest in the three or four weeks after you arrive home. The GBU team will supply detailed instructions regarding wound care and symptoms to look out for.

It’s important not to drive within the first three weeks after you arrive home. For the first six weeks, avoid heavy lifting. As a rule of thumb, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests lifting nothing heavier than a one-gallon container of milk. During your recovery, eat a healthy diet including lots of fruits and vegetables, and drink at least eight glasses of water per day. If you have any questions regarding your recovery, contact your GBU urologist.

What life is like after a radical prostatectomy?

The leading side effects of a radical prostatectomy include urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction (ED). Urinary incontinence may cause urine leakage and, rarely, a complete loss of bladder control. Usually, the ability to control your bladder will gradually return, and the symptoms can be treated and improved. For more information, read the American Cancer Society’s guide: Managing Incontinence for Men with Cancer.

As described by the American Cancer Society, the ability to have and maintain an erection after surgery depends on age, problems with ED prior to surgery, and nerve damage sustained during the procedure. Men who have undergone this surgery will also experience a loss of fertility. Consider banking your sperm prior to the procedure. Discuss ED symptoms with your GBU physician to determine treatment options.

The American Cancer Society provides many resources for those recovering from a radical prostatectomy. Beneficial guides covering fertility and ED include Sexuality for the Man with Cancer and Fertility and Men with Cancer.

Those who have undergone a radical prostatectomy should be closely monitored to ensure that cancer does not return. At GBU, we’ll be right by your side providing world-class care and support for you and your family before, during, and after your procedure. 

Interested in learning more?

Read one man's prostate cancer story, including his decision to have a radical prostatectomy

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