Prostate Cancer: Post-Surgery and Follow-Up Care with Your Urologic Oncologist

Prostatectomy, or the surgical removal of the prostate, seminal vesicles, and pelvic lymph nodes, has an 80% success rate for non-metastatic prostate cancer. While a common procedure, a 3- to 4-hour long prostatectomy is still a relatively major surgery that will require several hours of bed rest and weeks, if not months, of avoiding heavy lifting.

Post-operative care at the hospital

After surgery, the patient will need to spend 2 to 3 days in the hospital. They may drink fluids and eat solid food shortly after the surgery. The dressing on the abdominal incision will have to be checked regularly to see how it is healing, while the drains will be removed after 2 or 3 days. Most patients report minimal post-operative pain, which is then addressed by administering non-narcotic pain and anti-inflammatory medications.

A nurse will assist the patient with sponge baths, but a shower can be taken once the dressing has been removed. Don’t scrub the incision while bathing, just let water flow over it and pat dry once done. The incision is closed by steri-strips that will automatically peel off in 7 to 10 days.

To prevent blood clots and other complications, the patient is encouraged to walk and do leg exercises as soon as possible. A nurse will also teach the patient to use an incentive spirometer, a device that encourages deep breathing, to help avoid pneumonia. But even if light exercises are encouraged, the patient should take care to avoid heavy lifting for the next 6 to 8 weeks.

During removal of the prostate, the urethra is stitched directly to the bladder. To allow the bladder to rest and heal after the surgery, the patient will have to use a urethral catheter for a week. After a few days, he must return to the hospital to have it removed by a urologist.

Follow up with your urologic oncologist

Every prostate cancer case is different and, as such, there is no standard post-operation follow up schedule that will apply to everyone. The follow up plan for each case should be discussed with the patient, the people who will assist him after the surgery, and the urologist.

Typically, though, the patients should schedule a checkup shortly after the surgery. At this point, the doctor will ask the patient if he has noticed any changes in bladder habits, such as the urgency and frequency of urination, or if they are unable to start or stop urinating. The patient should also inform his urologist if he experienced any bone pain, muscle pain or loss of sensation in the legs, loss of bladder control, or fatigue.

If all goes well after the post-operative checkup, the patient might need to meet with the urologist in a quarterly or semi-annual basis for the next 1 or 2 years, after which they will only have to check with the doctor once a year. Patients, however, must remain vigilant and keep up with their annual visit to the urologist because prostate cancer has a chance of recurring within 5 years after the treatment.

Robot-assisted prostatectomy

Nowadays, robot-assisted minimally invasive prostatectomy is also possible. At Providence Saint John’s Heath Center, we perform such laparoscopic procedures with the help of state-of-the-art robotic equipment known as the da Vinci Surgery System. Long, thin surgical tools and a tube with a tiny camera in it (a laparoscope) are used so that only small incisions are created on the body of the patient. The surgeon can operate the tools while watching the procedure on a computer screen.

An excellent treatment option for prostate cancer that is confined to the prostate gland and the seminal vesicle, robot-assisted laparoscopy offers many benefits, including diminished pain, bleeding, and inflammation, as well as faster recovery and shorter hospital stay for the patient.

Please contact us today to learn more about the Da Vinci Surgery System and other services provided by our Urologic Oncology Program. We welcome all patients from the city of Santa Monica and surrounding areas in Southern California, as well as other patients from elsewhere across the country.

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