Sir Michael Parkinson shares a lesser-known side effect of prostate cancer treatment

A side effect of prostate cancer treatment can be bladder problems [Photo: Getty]
A side effect of prostate cancer treatment can be bladder problems [Photo: Getty]

Sir Michael Parkinson has opened up about suffering from a weak bladder, a lesser-known side effect of his treatment for prostate cancer.

The 84-year-old was first given the all clear following treatment for the cancer, but has been left surprised by some of the side effects he’s since suffered following an operation and radiotherapy back in 2013.

“When I look back at what happened, my treatment and aftercare was fabulous but the one thing that did bother me was I felt I was left to find out about what the consequences might be by myself,” he told Mirror.

Many patients suffer erectile dysfunction as well as urinary problems as removal of the gland can damage nerves and muscles close to the prostate.

“I didn’t need chemotherapy, which was wonderful, but I had radiotherapy. It leaves you with problems because it’s so near the bowels and bladder,” Sir Parkinson continued.

“It never occurred to me that might be the case and they never prepared me for what did happen – and that for me was the worst part of it. I was not really told how uncomfortable the after-effects can be – the problems you have with the bowel or the bladder.”

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Though he acknowledges that the after effects he’s been left with aren’t life-threatening, it does have an impact day to day.

“It is a nuisance rather than an illness,” he explains of now having a weak bladder.

“It didn’t change my life fundamentally, but it turns it around a bit as there are certain things you can do, certain things you can’t. So it’s a reorganisation.”

Now the TV interviewer wonders if there should be an awareness campaign informing others of the potential post-treatment side effects.

Sir Michael Parkinson has opened up about the side effects of his prostate cancer treatment [Photo: Getty]
Sir Michael Parkinson has opened up about the side effects of his prostate cancer treatment [Photo: Getty]

Why does prostate cancer treatment lead to bladder problems?

"Many men experience urinary problems as a side effect of their treatment,” explains Laura James, Head of Clinical Services, Prostate Cancer UK.

“This is because prostate cancer treatment can damage the nerves and muscles that control when a man urinates.”

James recommends that a man asks his doctor about possible side effects before starting treatments.

“The side effects will depend on the elected treatment, and whether there were urinary problems before starting treatment,” she explains.

Radiotherapy, like Sir Parkinson had, is an example of a type of treatment which treats the whole prostate.

“It aims to target all the cancer cells, including any that have spread to the area just outside the prostate. It can lead to side effects such as irritating the lining of the bladder and the urethra, which can cause a man to urinate more often or feel a sudden urge to urinate."

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Managing side effects

Though side effects can affect day-to-day life, James says there are treatments for them, as well as things men can do themselves to manage them.

“If you're having problems with a side effect, you might have a meeting with your GP or nurse to work out what support you need,” she adds.

Depending on the type of side effects being faced, ways to manage them can include lifestyle changes, pelvic floor muscle exercises, bladder retraining, medicines or surgery.

Prostate Cancer UK's new campaign 'Men, we are with you', launched last week in a bid to highlight the charity's belief that all men are worth saving from prostate cancer.

More than 11,500 men die from prostate cancer in the UK each year, which makes it a bigger killer than breast cancer.

With one man dying from prostate cancer every 45 minutes, the campaign aims to make people think about the men in their life, what they love about them and what they would miss if they lost them to prostate cancer.

For more information about urinary problems after prostate cancer treatment visit here

For tips on managing urinary problems, visit Prostate Cancer UK's How to Manage Guides.

Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer may contact Prostate Cancer UK's Specialist Nurses in confidence on 0800 074 8383 or online via the Live Chat instant messaging service.