There is no doubt that any currently available prostate cancer treatment has potential for long-term effects on a man’s quality of life. A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that many of these treatments have a severe impact on sexual and urinary function. However, when it came to the overall quality of a man’s life, factors like pain, energy levels, emotional health and the ability to perform daily physical tasks, such as walking, climbing stairs or errands were largely unaffected.
The study followed 1,269 American men for four years after their early-stage prostate cancer treatment. Sixty percent had undergone a radical prostatectomy, or surgical removal of the prostate gland. Seventeen percent had radiation therapy, otherwise known as brachytherapy, whereby radioactive “seeds” are implanted in the prostate gland. Twelve percent had external radiation therapy. Six percent of patients had a combination of two radiation therapies and five percent used hormone drug therapy to inhibit prostate cancer growth.
It is well known that prostate cancer treatments such as surgery and radiation can cause problems with urinary function and sexual performance, including erectile dysfunction. However, this is the first study known to assess the treatments’ effect on the patients’ long-term quality of life. The emotional and mental health factor is extremely important when dealing with one of the most common cancers in men.
It’s interesting to note that all treatment groups had sexual and urinary difficulties within the first year of treatment. The surgical patients experienced the most issues initially, however they showed an improvement in the second year; bringing them on par with the other treatment types. Ultimately all men were functioning similarly towards the end of the study period.
Not surprisingly, the patients reported they were more concerned by their sexual problems after treatment than before treatment. Researchers found that their “concern” levels did not change much over the study time period, suggesting that the patients were adjusting to the changes.
A prostate cancer diagnosis can deliver an overwhelming shock and a sense of dread because the disease is known as the “silent killer,” since it usually exhibits no symptoms. But this idea is no longer the case, especially with frequent testing and early detection – the cure rate is well over 95%. And with the advances in treatments, especially in robotic surgery, the quality of life and preservation of sexual and urinary function go hand in hand with a total cure.