Prostate Cancer Treatment May Leave Lasting Impact on Quality of Life

Posted on May 19th, 2010 by

Prostate cancer treatment may have lasting effects on quality-of-life issues related to sexual function and urinary problems, but it doesn’t seem to strongly impact overall quality of life, according to a study published in the Journal of Urology.1

Depending on the stage and extent of prostate cancer, the disease can be treated in several ways: radical prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate gland), interstitial brachytherapy (implantation of radioactive “seeds” in the prostate gland), externally delivered radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy. Treatment for prostate cancer can cause erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence—leading researchers to wonder about long-term impact on quality of life.

In a study that included data from 1,269 men who underwent treatment for prostate cancer, men completed follow-up questionnaires for four years following treatment. Most of the men in the study (60%) underwent prostatectomy; 17% had brachytherapy; 12% received external radiation; 6% received a combination of the radiation therapies; and 5% received hormonal therapy.

Men who underwent surgery or any form of radiation experienced urinary incontinence that grew worse throughout the first year following treatment and then improved during the second year; however, they reported that their urinary-related quality of life never returned to pre-treatment standards. Men who underwent surgery experienced the most problems. In contrast, men who underwent hormone therapy reported that their urinary function gradually grew worse over the four-year period.

All treatment groups reported declines in sexual function during the first year, with surgery patients seeing the biggest problems; however, surgery patients also experienced an improvement during the second year, while the other groups did not.

In terms of overall quality of life, prostate cancer did not seem to have a substantial impact. Thus, the researchers concluded that prostate cancer treatment adversely impacts urinary and sexual function, but does not appear to significantly impact overall quality of life.

Reference: Huang GJ, Sadetsky N, Penson DF. Health related quality of life for men treated for localized prostate cancer with long-term followup. Journal of Urology. 2010; 83(6):2206-12.

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