Staying healthy and living well after prostate cancer

After the initial shock of a prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment(s) is completed, you’re ready to move on and get your life back on track. But where do you begin? Even for men whose prostate cancer was found at an early stage with a wait-and-see approach, what can you do to live your best life by staying healthy and keeping cancer at bay? 

Fortunately, you can adopt many healthy steps to reduce your risk of prostate cancer advancing or returning. There are also several things to practice for living your best life beginning today:

Adopt a healthy eating pattern 

While certain foods have been identified as having certain nutritional qualities protecting against prostate cancer, the best approach is to focus instead on the overall healthy eating pattern. Here is what registered dietitians recommend:

  • Every day, eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. Have a plan to have two servings of veggies at least two of your meals and two servings of fruit at one meal and one snack. 
  • Choose whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereals. Look for whole-grain foods with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.  
  • Limit consumption of fatty red meat and processed meats such as bologna, hot dogs, salami, sausage, bacon, and pepperoni. Best animal protein choices are omega-3 fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, trout, herring, sardines, and mackerel; lean red meat with the words “loin” or “round” (e.g., “top round steak’ or “sirloin”), skinless chicken breasts, eggs, and low-fat dairy such as low-fat milk, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, and low-fat cottage cheese.
  • Avoid sugary beverages. This includes soda, lemonades, sweetened tea, fruit juices, and sweetened coffee beverages.
  • Reduce sodium intake to no more than 2300 milligrams a day. Do this by significantly reducing your intake of canned, bagged, or boxed goods such as chips, crackers, and soups. Read food labels and choose foods with no more than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. 
  • Reduce portion sizes at meals and snacks. For example, half of your plate should be veggies, and the other half should be made up of a quarter of a healthy starch such as a small sweet potato and lean protein.
  • Eat more beans and lentils. They are a rich soluble fiber and protein source, containing no fat or cholesterol.

Keep physically active  

Regular exercise enhances your cardiovascular and immune system functioning, improves circulation, reduces stress, maintains bone and muscle strength, and improves mood. So every day, fit in exercise, increasing your chance of keeping cancer-free. Here is why staying physically active is essential to prostate health:

The Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study of more than 30,000 men found an inverse relationship between physical activity and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH symptoms. Physically active men were less likely to have severe symptoms of BPH. Low-to-moderate-intensity physical activity showed benefits, such as walking regularly at a moderate pace. 

In this same study, researchers also examined the relationship between erectile dysfunction (ED) and exercise. Men who ran for an hour and a half or did three hours of rigorous outdoor work each week were 20% less likely to develop ED than men who did not exercise. In addition, men who were overweight to obese had a greater risk of ED than men with an ideal body mass index or BMI.

If exercise is not part of your daily routine, set a goal by starting slowly by doing an exercise you enjoy, such as walking, hiking, or jogging. Gradually build up to exercising at least 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes each time. Two to three times a week, lift weights to build and maintain muscle mass.

Gain better bladder control

Men after prostate cancer treatment commonly experience urinary side effects such as a frequent urge to urinate, weak stream, or embarrassing urinary incontinence. Usually, these symptoms go away with time, but you can do things now to take control of the situation:

  • Perform Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. 
  • Limit fluid intake (especially in the evening), avoid caffeine and alcohol, and schedule regular bathroom trips to prevent rushing to urinate.
  • Ask your doctor about possible prescription medications for painful urination or difficult bowel movements.
  • Men with bothersome urinary side effects persisting for more than a year (a small minority of men) should ask their doctor how to treat these lingering problems. 

Treating erectile dysfunction

Men who experience erectile dysfunction (ED) will likely regain sexual function within six months. But until then, have a discussion with your doctor on to treat persistent ED:

  • Consider prescription oral ED medications, including Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. 
  • Other options include vacuum constriction devices, penile implants, and injection of medication directly into the penis to produce an erection.

Find your new normal

Anyone who has gone through cancer knows you’re likely a different person than before the diagnosis. Having a life-threatening illness is bound to cause substantial life changes. But many of these life changes, while they take time to adjust to, can often result in a better overall outlook on life when you embrace the following attitude adjustments:

Going through prostate cancer can make men feel less “masculine.” If the prostate has been removed, a man may feel a part of him he identified with will change him negatively. With or without a prostate does not reflect on your manhood. You are just as masculine as before, but it takes time and patience to realize that. 

Some men may struggle with self-esteem after prostate cancer. This is not unusual for many cancer patients. How you see yourself, your body image, or dealing with personality changes can feel different or like a betrayal. Reflect on how cancer has changed you but focus on the positives of what you have learned and gained from the experience.

Your role in the family may have changed. Maybe you’ve had to cut back on working or cannot keep up with family activities; likely these will improve with time. However, the majority of men can usually resume the normal activities they had before prostate cancer.

Any man with depression, anxiety, or self-esteem issues, should be referred to a professional who can help them regain confidence, drive, and enthusiasm for their best quality of life.

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.

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