Return to Work: How to manage, what to expect and how to plan

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Getting back to normal activities

Returning to work is a personal decision. Some men prioritise the amount of time off work when deciding on their treatment plan. Others take time to return to work.

Different modes of treatment will require different hospitalisation periods and recovery times.  Generally, the more invasive the procedure, the longer recovery time there will be. 



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Radical prostatectomy

Radical prostatectomy (open, laparoscopic or robot-assisted laparoscopic) is the most invasive treatment option for prostate cancer. The removal of the prostate can be performed with a minimally invasive approach via small abdominal incisions with or without the assistance of a robot. This approach is usually associated with less pain and blood loss and a shorter hospital stay compared to the open approach, where the incisions are larger. 

Following surgery, patients are advised to avoid strenuous activity for several weeks, including no heavy lifting for around 6 weeks. It is advised that patients spend a few weeks at home recovering before getting back to work/regular daily activities. Easing back into it is the best way; work from home, or start off with a few hours a day so you can rest if you need to.

Some men find that they have a setback in their urinary control when they first return to work, probably because they have other things to concentrate on. This is usually temporary.

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Radiotherapy (external beam radiotherapy, Brachytherapy) is less invasive, and patients should be able to return to regular activities almost straight away. External beam radiotherapy requires more time commitment than Brachytherapy. For External beam radiotherapy you are required to do 15-20min sessions five days a week for up to eight weeks with some preparation time before each session. Some men continue to work while having external beam radiotherapy; however fatigue can take its toll, particularly later on across the eight week course. Brachytherapy can take up to two hours and is a once off procedure performed under general anaesthetic. 

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Why would I go back to work straight away?

Returning to work and other routine activities may give you a sense of normality, and getting back to the life that you had before your cancer diagnosis.

Before going back to work, you may wish to talk to your employer to discuss your work options. It may be possible for them to arrange shorter working hours to help you settle back in. You may also want to discuss your workload; your expectations of what you are able to do may be different to those around you. 

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Why wouldn’t I go back to work straight away?

Incontinence is a common side effect from prostate cancer therapy. If you are still learning how to manage your continence it may affect your mood and confidence at work and other social settings. Managing continence pads at work can also be a challenge as disposal bins are not always available in men’s toilets. Taking a plastic bag with you to dispose of the pad is recommended as you may need to use a bin outside the toilets.

Fatigue is also common following treatment. Many clinicians will recommend taking your time to ease back into your everyday routine.

You may be worried that you will be perceived differently once you return to work following cancer treatment. You may also still feel emotional about your diagnosis or treatment experience and it may benefit you to take some extra time off to recover.



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