Having prostate cancer and prostate cancer treatments may cause side effects that require the immediate attention of your doctor or health care team, but it is hard to know when to call the doctor as opposed to knowing when to let it ride.


It can even be difficult to know when all you have is a common cold versus a more serious infection, but responding properly can save your life. An infection occurs when bacteria, viruses, and less commonly, fungi (such as yeast), invade your body’s tissues and the immune system cannot control them. Prostate cancer and many of its treatments may increase your risk of develop infections. Treatment for prostate cancer, such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy will weaken the immune system, laying us more open to get an uncontrolled infection.

When you are at home, there is no way to know for sure when you are fighting an infection, but some common symptoms typical of an infection can include a fever (a temperature of 100.5°F or higher), chills, sweating, and a general sense of feeling poorly. A good rule of thumb is that if you feel good one day and then feel poorly the next you should monitor your temperature to see if you have a fever. The other most common signs of a possible infection can include the development of a cough, experiencing a burning sensation when urinating, change in bowel habits, and/or a sore on your skin.

If you begin to experience any of these signs it is a good idea to call your doctor. Even if it is the weekend or night time you should make the call as there is always someone covering for your doctor to help you through these types of issues.

On the prevention side of the coin always get enough sleep, be careful to eat properly, don’t forget your exercise regime and wash your hands regularly. It is also a good idea to avoid other people who are ill.

    Deep vein thrombosis

Another quiet danger of prostate cancer treatment is a thrombosis, or blood clot. A thrombosis can endanger your life if it travels to your heart and lodges in the lungs, causing what is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). You should be aware of the signs and symptoms of a PE. A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms inside a deep vein in the extremities, usually in the legs. They include shortness of breath, cough, fever, or chest pain that becomes worse if you take a deep breath. A common sign of a DVT is a swelling in the arm or leg that becomes warm, red, and painful. Contact your doctor as soon as you notice any swelling.

Dealing with the treatments for prostate cancer put you at very high risk for developing DVTs. Surgery, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy increase your risk of a DVT because the treatments can activate the body’s blood-clotting system. Additionally, being immobile for a prolonged time, such as staying in bed or sitting for a long time in an airplane or car also increases your risk of developing a DVT. If you are on an airplane, periodically get up from your seat and flex your muscles and while driving in a car stop and take frequent rest/stretch breaks. If you have had a history of a DVT consider wearing a compression stockings while traveling.

A family history of blood clotting disorders, a recent surgery, and other conditions, such as heart disease and lung disease, and just simple aging also increase your risk for developing a DVT.

Be aware of these signs of infection and DVTs. Your awareness can save your live, and do not be afraid of calling your doctor if you are experiencing any of these issues, or just are not sure.

Joel T. Nowak MA, MSW