Our Specialist Nurses receive thousands of emails and phone calls each year from men, their families and friends and health professionals asking for information about prostate cancer. Below we give answers to some of the most common questions we receive.

If you would like to speak to our Specialist Nurses, in confidence, call 0800 074 8383 or fill in our email contact form.

Please note responses are based on UK practice. We hope this information will add to the medical advice you have had. Please do continue to talk to your doctor if you are worried about any medical issues.

Prostate problems

  • What does 'benign enlargement of the prostate' mean?  

    Benign prostatic enlargement (BPE) is the medical term used to describe an enlarged prostate. It means a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.

    You might also hear it called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Hyperplasia means an increase in the number of cells. It's this increase in cells that causes the prostate to grow.

    An enlarged prostate is common for men after the age of about 50. About 4 out of every 10 men (40 per cent) over the age of 50 and 3 out of 4 men (75 per cent) in their 70s have urinary symptoms that are caused by an enlarged prostate.

    Normal And Enlarged Prostate

    Having an enlarged prostate is not the same as having cancer. Read more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of an enlarged prostate.

    Last updated January 2013
    To be reviewed January 2015

Risk factors

  • Am I more likely to get prostate cancer if my father had it?  

    Inside every cell of our body is a set of instructions called genes. These are inherited from our parents. Genes control how the body grows, works and what it looks like. Researchers have found some characteristics in genes that might be passed on through your parents and could increase your risk of developing prostate cancer. Only 5 to 10 per cent of prostate cancers are thought to be strongly linked to an inherited risk.

    • You are two and a half times more likely to get prostate cancer if your father or brother has been diagnosed with it, compared with a man who has no affected relatives.
    • There may be a higher chance of you developing prostate cancer if your relative was under 60 when he was diagnosed or if you have more than one close relative with prostate cancer.

    Last updated January 2013
    To be reviewed January 2015

  • Is it true that Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer?  

    Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer than men of other ethnic backgrounds. In the UK, about 1 in 4 Black men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. The reasons are not yet clear but it could be because of genetic changes passed down through generations.

    You can read more about the risk in Black men or download our leaflet, What do you know about your prostate? Information for African Caribbean men.

    Last updated October 2013
    To be reviewed May 2015

  • Does masturbating increase my risk of prostate cancer?  

    Some research suggests that masturbation and sexual activity probably don't increase your risk of prostate cancer, and might even lower it. But we don't know for certain how masturbation affects your risk because there isn't much research in this area. It is a normal, healthy and enjoyable activity for many men. Read more about who is at risk.

    Last updated December 2013
    To be reviewed December 2015

  • Does drinking alcohol increase my risk of getting prostate cancer?  

    We don't know if alcohol has any specific effects on men with prostate cancer. But we do know that drinking too much alcohol can make you put on weight and causes health problems such as heart disease and some other cancers. The government advises that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day.

    How many units are in a drink?

    • A pint of lager, beer or cider contains 2.8 units
    • A 175ml glass of wine contains 2.1 units
    • A 25ml measure of 40 per cent single spirit with mixer contains 1 unit

     Your doctor or nurse can tell you whether alcohol will affect your prostate cancer treatment. If you have urinary problems after treatment, try to cut down on alcohol as it can irritate the bladder and make the problems worse. You can find out more about managing how much you drink from NHS Choices.

    Last updated December 2012
    To be reviewed December 2014

  • Is there anything I can do to prevent getting prostate cancer?  

    We don't know how to prevent prostate cancer for certain, but a healthy diet and lifestyle may be important. Eating healthily and being active can help you stay a healthy weight. This may mean that you are less likely to be diagnosed with aggressive or advanced prostate cancer. A healthy lifestyle can also improve your general wellbeing and reduce your risk of other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and some other cancers.

    Read our pages on diet and your risk of prostate cancer for more information.

    Last updated December 2012
    To be reviewed December 2014

  • Does red wine help to prevent prostate cancer?  

    Red wine contains natural compounds called antioxidants that may help prevent damage to cells. Antioxidants are found in the skin and seeds of grapes as well as other fruits and vegetables. Red wine contains more antioxidants than white wine because it is made with grape skin but white wine is not.

    In 2005, one small study found that red wine may help to lower a man's risk of prostate cancer. However, since then larger studies have not found this to be true. Therefore there is not enough evidence at present to say that red wine helps to prevent prostate cancer.

    Drinking a lot alcohol might increase your risk of prostate cancer. Drinking alcohol also increases your risk of some other cancers and health problems such as high blood pressure and stroke. If you are drinking alcohol, you should aim to stay within the recommended limits for your general health. If you would like to know more about how diet may affect your risk of prostate cancer, read our pages about healthy living.

    Last updated December 2012
    To be reviewed December 2014

  • Do vitamin E and selenium protect against prostate cancer?  

    Vitamin E

    Previous research suggested that vitamin E supplements might help prevent prostate cancer and help protect against advanced cancer. More recent research has shown that it does not have this effect and might even be harmful.  You do need vitamin E in your diet; like all vitamins it is vital for good health. The best way to get enough vitamin E is through a balanced diet, without taking supplements.

    Selenium

    There is evidence to suggest that selenium helps to protect against prostate cancer and advanced prostate cancer. Most of us in the UK don't have much selenium in our diet, but some foods are a good source of it. These include Brazil nuts, fish, seafood, liver, kidney and poultry. Taking selenium supplements doesn't appear to have any benefit in protecting against prostate cancer.

    Please visit our pages diet and prostate cancer for more information on improving your diet.

    Last updated December 2012
    To be reviewed December 2014

Diagnosis

  • Why is there no screening programme for prostate cancer?  

    Screening programmes aim to spot the early signs of cancers in people who do not have any symptoms. By finding cancer early, it could be treated in time to cure it. In the UK there are screening programmes for breast, cervical and bowel cancer.

    There is currently no screening programme for prostate cancer. One reason for this is that the PSA test isn’t good enough at finding prostate cancer to be used as part of a screening programme – read about the disadvantages of the test.

    It’s important that the benefits of a screening programme outweigh any disadvantages. But it’s not clear that screening with the PSA test would have more benefits than disadvantages.

    Some studies have found that screening with the PSA test could mean fewer men die from prostate cancer. But it would also mean that a large number of men would be diagnosed with a slow-growing cancer that wouldn’t have caused any symptoms or shortened their life. And a large number of these men would have treatment they didn’t need which could cause side effects. Other studies have found that screening doesn’t reduce the number of deaths from prostate cancer.

    Although there's no screening programme for prostate cancer, many men who are worried about it want a PSA test. So the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme was set up. This programme gives men over 50 who want a PSA test the right to have one on the NHS - as long as they have talked through the pros and cons with their GP.

    Last updated August 2014
    To be reviewed August 2016

  • What does 'Gleason score' mean?  

    If your biopsy samples contain cancer, it is graded to show how aggresive the cancer is – in other words, how likely it is to grow and spread outside the prostate.

    Cancer cells have different patterns, depending on how quickly they're likely to grow. The pattern is given a grade from 1 to 5. This is called the Gleason grade.

    Gleason score

    There may be more than one grade of cancer in the biopsy samples. An overall Gleason score is worked out by adding together two Gleason grades.

    The first is the most common grade in all the samples. The second is the highest grade of what’s left. When these two grades are added together, the total is called the Gleason score.

    For example, if the biopsy samples show that:

    • most of the cancer seen is grade 3 and
    • the highest grade of any other cancer seen is grade 4, then
    • the Gleason score will be 7 (3+4).

    The higher the Gleason score, the more aggressive the cancer and the more likely it is to spread. Your doctor or nurse will talk you through what your results mean. Read more about Gleason scoring.

    Last updated November 2014
    To be updated February 2016

  • What is the 'stage' of my cancer and what does this mean?  

    Staging is a way of recording how far the cancer has spread. The most common method is the TNM (Tumour-Nodes-Metastases) system.

    • The T stage shows how far the cancer has spread in and around the prostate.
    • The N stage shows whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
    • The M stage shows whether the cancer has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body.

    Last updated November 2014
    To be reviewed February 2016

  • Where does prostate cancer spread to?  

    If prostate cancer spreads outside the prostate, it can spread to the area just outside the prostate (locally advanced prostate cancer) or to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer).

    Locally advanced prostate cancer

    If you have locally advanced prostate cancer, your cancer may have started to break out of the prostate, or it might have spread to the area just outside the prostate. This might include:

    • the seminal vesicles (two glands that sit behind your prostate and produce some of the fluid in semen)
    • pelvic lymph nodes (part of your immune system, near your prostate)
    • neck of the bladder
    • back passage (rectum).

    For more information, read our pages about locally advanced prostate cancer.

    Advanced prostate cancer

    This is cancer that has spread from the prostate to other parts of the body. It develops when tiny prostate cancer cells move from the prostate to other parts of the body through the blood stream or lymphatic system.

    Prostate cancer can spread to any part of the body, but most commonly to the bones. Another common place for prostate cancer to spread to is the lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands). Lymph nodes are part of your immune system and are found throughout your body. Some of the lymph nodes are in the pelvic area - near the prostate.

    For more information, read our pages about advanced prostate cancer.

    Staging

    Staging is a way of recording how far the cancer has spread. The most common method is the TNM (Tumour-Nodes-Metastases) system. The T stage shows how far the cancer has spread in and around the prostate. The N stage shows whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The M stage shows whether the cancer has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body.

    Read more about:

    Last updated November 2014
    To be reviewed July 2016

  • What is the PCA3 test?  

    The PCA3 test is a urine test. Your doctor or nurse will massage your prostate and then ask you to give a urine sample. Cells from the prostate pass into the urine where they can be looked at with a special test that looks at your genes. This test might help specialists decide which men should have a biopsy, or it might be useful for monitoring men who've already had a biopsy.

    This test is not widely available and more research is needed before we can be sure how useful it is.

    At the moment the PCA3 test is only available in a few private hospitals and clinics, as we still need more research about how good it is. Read more about the tests to diagnose prostate cancer.

    Last updated February 2014
    To be reviewed February 2016

  • What is a multi-disciplinary team (MDT)?  

    This is the team of health professionals involved in your care. The team may include:

    • A urologist: A doctor who specialises in conditions affecting the urinary and reproductive systems, including prostate cancer. Urologists are surgeons and carry out prostate surgery.
    • An oncologist: A doctor who specialises in cancer treatments other than surgery, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
    • A radiologist: A doctor who specialises in diagnosing medical conditions using X-rays and scans. 
    • A pathologist: A doctor who specialises in studying cells and tissues under a microscope to identify diseases. A pathologist examines prostate biopsy samples to see if there is any cancer in your prostate. 
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist: A nurse who specialises in a particular medical condition or group of conditions.
    • Key worker: This is your main point of contact. This is usually your clinical nurse specialist but might be someone else. They help to coordinate your care and can guide you to the right team member or sources of information.

    Last updated January 2015
    To be reviewed January 2017

Treatments

  • How will I know if my cancer is spreading if I am on active surveillance?  

    Active surveillance involves monitoring your prostate cancer with regular tests, rather than treating it straight away. This means you can avoid unnecessary treatment, or delay treatment and the possible side effects.

    The tests aim to find any changes that suggest the cancer is growing. The tests used vary from hospital to hospital, but you may have the following:

    Repeat biopsies aren’t done by every hospital – some will only do them if an MRI scan suggests the cancer is growing.

    If the results of the tests show your cancer has grown, you’ll be offered treatment which aims to cure the cancer – for example, surgery or radiotherapy.

    Last updated June 2014
    To be reviewed June 2016

  • How can I find out if my consultant is a good surgeon?  

    How successful surgery to remove the prostate is, and the risk of side effects, will depend on your surgeon’s experience and skill. Your surgeon should be able to give you information about how many operations they have done, how successful these were, and the rate of side effects.

    Research suggests that surgeons who do at least 20 radical prostatectomies each year, and ideally more than 35 a year, have better results, including lower rates of side effects.

    You can ask your surgeon how many of these operations they have done and how many do they do each year.

    Last updated September 2014
    To be reviewed September 2016

  • Is robot-assisted surgery better than keyhole surgery by hand?  

    There are several ways of removing the prostate:

    • keyhole surgery by hand
    • robot-assisted keyhole surgery
    • open surgery.

    All types of surgery appear to be as good as each other in treating prostate cancer, and have similar side effects.

    The main advantages of keyhole surgery (by hand or robot-assisted) are you will lose less blood, have less pain, spend less time in hospital and you will heal more quickly. Robot-assisted surgery is only available in a few hospitals in the UK. Doctors also need specialist equipment and training to carry it out.

    The main advantage of open surgery is that it’s available across the UK. But you’re more likely to need a blood transfusion, have a longer stay in hospital and take longer to heal.

    Which operation you have will depend on what your surgeon recommends and what’s available in your area. If your hospital doesn’t offer keyhole surgery (by hand or robot-assisted) your doctor may be able to refer you to one that does.

    Last updated September 2014
    To be reviewed September 2016

  • Should I have surgery or radiotherapy?  

    If you have cancer that contained inside the prostate, you may be offered:

    • Surgery: This involves having an operation to remove the prostate and the cancer inside it. The seminal vesicles are also removed.
    • External beam radiotherapy: This uses high energy X-ray beams directed at the prostate from outside the body to kill cancer cells.
    • Brachytherapy: A type of internal radiotherapy. It involves putting a source of radiation directly inside the prostate.

    There may be more than one treatment that is suitable for you. Your choice of treatment will depend on several things, including:

    • How far the cancer has spread and how quickly it may be growing.
    • Your age and general health.
    • What the treatment involves and the possible side effects.
    • How you feel about different treatments – some men prefer to have their prostate removed others may not.
    • How the treatment you choose will affect any future treatment options if the cancer comes back or spreads – for example, you may not be able to have surgery if you’ve already had radiotherapy.

    There’s no overall best treatment, and each one has its own pros and cons. All treatments have side effects, such as leaking urine and erection problems. Treatments will affect each man differently, and you might not get all the possible side effects. But it’s important to think about how you would cope with them when choosing a treatment.

    Your doctor or nurse will explain all your treatment options, and help you to choose the right treatment for you. You can also speak to our Specialist Nurses.

    Last updated September 2014
    To be reviewed November 2016

  • What is abiraterone?  

    Abiraterone (Zytiga®) is a new type of hormone therapy for men with advanced prostate cancer that has stopped responding to other hormone therapy. It is suitable for men who have already had docetaxel chemotherapy and whose cancer has started to grow again. Abiraterone may help some men to live longer. It can also help control symptoms.

    Abiraterone is taken as a tablet and works by stopping the production of testosterone. You will also take a steroid called prednisone to reduce the risk of side effects. Side effects of abiraterone include fluid retention, high blood pressure, liver problems and a lower than normal level of potassium in the blood. This could make you feel tired and you may be a risk of a fast irregular heartbeat. You should contact your doctor if you experience this. You will have your blood pressure checked regularly, and have blood tests to check how well your liver is working.

    Abiraterone is also effective in men who have stopped responding to other types of hormone therapy but have not yet had chemotherapy. However it is not widely available in the UK for these men. If your doctor thinks it is suitable for you, they may be able to apply for you to get it.

    Last updated October 2012
    To be reviewed October 2014

  • How do oestrogens treat prostate cancer?  

    You may be given oestrogen to treat your prostate cancer if your original hormone therapy stops working. Diethylstilbestrol (Stilboestrol®) is a tablet that is similar to the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is a hormone found in both men and women, but women usually produce more. Diethylstilbestrol can be used to treat prostate cancer that is no longer responding to other types of hormone therapy.

    Diethylstilbestrol can cause similar side effects to other types of hormone therapy, such as breast swelling and tenderness. A low dose of radiotherapy to the breast area can prevent this. You can read more about this and other side effects in our booklet, Living with hormone therapy: A guide for men with prostate cancer.

    Diethylstilbestrol can also increase your risk of circulation problems, such as blood clots. You will usually take drugs such as aspirin or warfarin to reduce the risk of blood clots. You may not be able to take diesthylstilbestrol if you have a history

    of high blood pressure, heart disease or strokes. Your doctor or nurse will discuss this with you and can explain the risks and benefits.

    Last updated October 2012
    To be reviewed October 2014

  • Will I have to have chemotherapy?  

    You will only be offered chemotherapy if your cancer has spread out of the prostate to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic prostate cancer) and is no longer responding to another treatment called hormone therapy.

    Chemotherapy does not get rid of prostate cancer, but aims to shrink it and slow down its growth. This helps some men to live longer, and can help to control or delay symptoms such as pain.

    Chemotherapy isn't used to treat prostate cancer that is contained within the prostate (early or localised prostate cancer) because there are other treatments that are more effective, such as surgery and radiotherapy.

    If you would like to know more about treating prostate cancer with chemotherapy, read our page about chemotherapy. Or, if you are unsure about the stage of your cancer and your treatment options, read our treatment pages.

    Last updated January 2014
    To be reviewed January 2016

Side effects

  • Can I have side effects from radiotherapy several years after treatment?  

    Like all treatments, radiotherapy can cause side effects.

    Side effects happen when the healthy tissue near the prostate is damaged by radiotherapy. Most healthy cells recover so side effects usually only last a few weeks or months. But some side effects can start months or years after finishing treatment. These might be similar to the problems you had during treatment, such as bowel problems, but may also include problems with getting or keeping an erection. These side effects can last a long time.  

    Talk to your doctor or nurse about your own risk of late side effects. You might be more likely to get them if:

    • you’re older
    • you have diabetes
    • you’ve had bowel or prostate surgery in the past
    • you’ve had bladder, bowel or erection problems in the past.

    Last updated July 2014
    To be reviewed July 2016

  • When will I stop leaking urine after surgery?  

    Surgery to remove the prostate can damage the muscles and nerves that control when you urinate.These include the pelvic floor muscles, which stretch below the bladder and help support it. This can cause you to leak urine.

    You might just leak a few drops when you exercise, cough or sneeze – this is called stress incontinence. Or you might leak more and need to wear absorbent pads or pants, especially in the weeks after the operation.

    Leaking urine usually improves with time.Most men start to see an improvement one to six months after surgery. But some men leak urine for a year or more.

    There are treatments available that can help manage urinary problems, as well as things that you can do yourself. Your doctor or nurse may suggest you do pelvic floor muscle exercises for a few weeks before the operation. These may help you recover more quickly from urinary problems caused by surgery.

    Last updated September 2014
    To be reviewed September 2016

  • How can I manage incontinence when travelling abroad?  

    Incontinence after prostate cancer treatment could affect your travel plans. This should not stop you from travelling but it might affect where you go and what sort of things you do while you're away. Here are some tips for planning your trip.

    If you have urinary problems and use pads, make sure you pack enough for your trip and a few extra in case of delays.

    •  Pack extra pads and medicine in your hand luggage in case your suitcase gets lost.

    If you use a catheter:

    • take a spare catheter with you
    • take plenty of extra drainage bags or catheter valves
    • speak to your specialist nurse about caring for your catheter while you are away
    • ask your doctor for a letter that explains what your equipment is for. This is called a medical validation certificate and it might make things easier if customs officials decide to search your bag.

    Tell your travel company about any special needs you have. They may be able to help or give you a seat close to the toilet.

    Find out how you can have your clothes washed if needed at your destination.

    If you are worried about leaking during the night, ask your hotel or accommodation if they can provide a protective sheet for the bed.

    Drink a little less while you are on holiday but take care to stay hydrated, especially if it is hot weather. Read more about travelling with prostate cancer.

    Last updated January 2013
    To be reviewed January 2015

  • Is there anything I can do before and after surgery to help keep my erections?  

    If you have surgery to remove the prostate there is a risk that you may have problems getting an erection afterwards. There are some things that can help.

    Ask your surgeon if they will do nerve-sparing surgery. Saving the nerves that control erections may mean you will be more likely to get erections afterwards. But even if your surgeon does save the nerves, you may still have problems getting an erection.

    Your doctor may suggest that you start treatments for erection problems in the first few weeks after surgery. It could be taking a low dose PDE5 inhibitor tablet once a day or using a vacuum pump, or sometimes both together. Some research suggests that starting treatment soon after surgery may improve your chances of getting erections later on. But it may not work for every man.

    Erections are often not as strong as they were before surgery. Some men will never be able to get an erection without the help of treatments.

    How likely you are to have erection problems depends on several things such as:

    • your age and weight
    • the strength of your erections before surgery
    • other health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes
    • the medicines you take, and
    • whether you smoke.

    Last updated September 2014
    To be reviewed September 2016

  • How can I get an erection after treatment?  

    Some treatments for prostate cancer can damage the nerves and blood vessels that are needed for an erection. Treatments that can have this effect include surgery, radiotherapy, brachytherapyhigh intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and cryotherapy.

    All types of hormone therapy can cause erection problems because it reduces your desire for sex (libido).

    Many of the treatments for erection problems work by improving the flow of blood to the penis.

    The treatments are:

    • tablets
    • injections, pellets or cream
    • vacuum pump
    • surgical implant
    • sex therapy

    Because getting an erection also relies on your thoughts and feelings, tackling any worries or relationship issues as well as having medical treatment for erection problems often works well. There are lots of ways to do this, so pick what works best for you. It may be talking to someone close to you, speaking to your nurse or getting some counselling or sex therapy.

    Read our information about sex and prostate cancer to find out more about treatments for erections problems.

    Last updated January 2015
    To be reviewed January 2017

  • Does stopping hormone therapy from time to time help to reduce the side effects?  

    Stopping hormone therapy from time to time is called intermittent hormone therapy. You might be able to stop treatment when your PSA level is low and steady, and start it again when your PSA starts to rise. You might avoid side effects while you're not having treatment, but it can take several months for the side effects to wear off.

    You can have intermittent hormone therapy for as long as it continues to work. Your doctor or nurse will tell you when you should stop treatment, and when to start again.

    Intermittent hormone therapy may be just as effective at treating prostate cancer as continuous treatment, but we need more research into this. It might not be suitable for all men.3 Speak to your doctor or nurse about whether it might be an option for you.

    Last updated May 2013
    To be reviewed May 2015

  • Why do I feel so low now that I'm having hormone therapy?  

    Hormone therapy itself can affect your mood. Some men find that they feel more emotional than usual or just feel ‘different’ to how they felt before. Some men find that they cry a lot. Others experience mood swings, anxiety or depression. Just knowing that these feelings are caused by hormone therapy can help.

    Some of the side effects of hormone therapy can also be difficult to come to terms with. Physical changes, such as putting on weight, or changes to your sex life might make you feel different about yourself.

    Things in your day-to-day life may change because of the hormone therapy. Your role in your relationships with your partner, family and friends might change. Or you might be too tired to do some of the things you used to do.

    If you often feel tearful or low, or you find you get angry more easily, start drinking more or stop taking care of yourself, you may be depressed. If you recognise these kinds of changes in yourself, there are things that can help. Speak to your GP or doctor or nurse. If you need to speak to someone immediately, you could ring the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

    You may find it helps to talk to your family or friends. Or you could speak to one of our Specialist Nurses, or your GP, doctor or nurse.

    Or you could try talking to someone who’s been there. We have volunteers who have had hormone therapy and can understand what you’re going through. There are also support groups across the country, where you and your family can meet others affected by prostate cancer. Or you could join our online community where you can talk to men with prostate cancer and their families.

    Read more about the side effects of hormone therapy and how it affects your mood.

    Last updated November 2013
    To be reviewed May 2015

  • How can I manage hot flushes?  

    Hot flushes are a common side effect of hormone therapy. They can vary from a few seconds of feeling overheated to several hours of sweating. Hot flushes can be similar to those women get when they’re going through the menopause.

    If hot flushes disrupt your everyday life, there are a number of things you can do to help manage them. These include lifestyle changes, medicines and complementary therapies. Find out more about managing hot flushes in our booklet, Living with hormone therapy: a guide for men with prostate cancer.

    Last updated October 2013
    To be reviewed May 2015

  • What causes lymphoedema and how can I stop the swelling?  

    Lymphoedema is caused by a blockage in part of the body's immune system called the lymphatic system. This causes fluid to build up in the body's tissues, causing swelling. This is lymphoedema. 

    Some of the lymph nodes are in the groin and pelvic area - near the prostate. The cancer might spread to the lymph nodes or to surrounding tissues and press on the lymph vessels. Treatments for prostate cancer can also affect the lymphatic system. You may be at greater risk of lymphoedema if you have had surgery or radiotherapy to the lymph nodes. 

    What can help?

    Speak to your nurse or GP if you have any of the symptoms. Treatments can manage it, although they cannot cure it. They are most effective if started early. You may be referred to a specialist lymphoedema nurse.

    Last updated January 2013
    To be reviewed January 2015