A person can live a healthy life without a prostate, but they may experience both permanent and treatable side effects.

The prostate is a small gland that has various functions, such as helping produce semen. Problems with the prostate typically affect its function and can cause various symptoms.

In some cases, a person may require surgery, known as a prostatectomy, to remove some or all of the prostate gland. Though a person can continue to function and have sex after its removal, some may experience sexual problems, and others may become infertile.

Read on to learn more about how prostate removal may affect life expectancy.

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Removal of the prostate will not shorten a person’s lifespan, but it could increase the number of years a person will live. Evidence suggests that removal of the prostate due to localized cancer can increase average life expectancy compared with watchful waiting.

However, the benefit is also dependent on a person’s baseline risk. Modern diagnostic tools can help a doctor assess how well a person will respond to the procedure. Complete removal of the prostate is not without risks, and certain side effects, such as infertility, are not avoidable.

There are two main reasons a person may need prostate removal surgery: prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Prostate cancer is cancer that starts in the prostate. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among males.

People in otherwise good health with localized prostate cancer may be good candidates for surgical removal. The procedure, known as a radical prostatectomy, removes the prostate, surrounding tissue, and seminal vesicles. A surgeon may also remove the local lymph nodes during the same procedure.

BPH occurs when the prostate becomes enlarged. It is noncancerous, but it can cause symptoms to occur.

A doctor may recommend the removal of the prostate if other treatment options for BPH are not effective or if the prostate is very large. A person may not need to have their prostate fully removed, and several different types of surgery are available to help treat BPH.

Removal of the prostate can cause side effects. Some side effects are permanent, while others may improve over time with treatment.

The prostate plays an important role during sexual intercourse. The gland provides the fluid that sperm travels in during ejaculation. Without a functioning prostate, sperm cannot exit the body. As such, prostatectomy can make a person infertile.

A person may also notice other changes to their sexual health and function. Some possible issues include:

Other possible side effects not related directly to sexual function include:

A person can manage many of the potential side effects following prostate removal. Treatments can vary based on the presenting symptoms and issues that a person experiences.

For urinary incontinence, pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen the muscles at the base of the bladder responsible for holding in and releasing urine.

Most people will regain urinary continence within a year, though about 1 in 5 may continue to have some issues with leakage. A doctor may also prescribe medications and recommend lifestyle changes to help with incontinence.

For erectile dysfunction, a doctor may prescribe medications to help achieve an erection by increasing blood flow to the penis. Some examples include:

Another possible solution includes injectable medication. For example, a person may use alprostadil (Caverject) to help them achieve an erection.

For some, a mechanical device for an erection may be the best choice. This can include a pump or a ring, both of which help bring blood into the penis and maintain it.

In some cases, a person may need an implant. An implant can provide 100% effective therapy if all other mechanics are working properly. However, implants may result in side effects such as pain.

The following section provides answers to frequently asked questions.

What does the prostate do?

The primary function of the prostate gland is to help produce semen. Without the prostate, sperm are unable to leave the body. A person can still have an orgasm after its removal, but it will be “dry” and cannot result in pregnancy.

Can it grow back?

Yes, it is possible for prostate tissue and prostate tumors to grow back. However, it is not possible for the prostate to grow back after complete removal, such as after a radical prostatectomy. If tissue does grow back, it is likely a recurrence of the cancer.

Treatment for prostate cancer may involve reducing or blocking androgens. These are sex hormones that contribute to growth and reproduction. This deprivation can shrink the prostate gland. However, evidence suggests that the prostate can regenerate after restoring androgen levels.

Additionally, transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a common procedure for treating prostate problems. As this procedure does not remove all the prostate gland, it can continue to grow to some extent. As such, roughly 10% of people may require a second operation roughly 10 years after the first one.

Does prostatectomy shorten life expectancy?

Removing the prostate does not shorten life expectancy. In fact, some evidence suggests that in otherwise healthy males, it may extend their life expectancy.

Can people still get erections after prostate surgery?

Many people can still achieve an erection following prostate surgery. For those who cannot, medications, mechanical devices, or implants may help.

Read on to learn more about orgasms after prostate surgery.

A person can live without a prostate. A prostatectomy may be necessary to treat certain prostate problems, such as prostate cancer.

While prostate removal surgery may result in some side effects, such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence, these are often treatable. However, in some cases, surgery may result in infertility.