Scientists from the Fox Chase Cancer Center recently presented promising data on how current therapeutics may predict the impact on urinary and sexual performance of prostate cancer patients. The data were presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology.
Men diagnosed with prostate cancer have a number of possible treatments at their disposal that commonly include surgery to remove the prostate and radiation therapy. The latter can be divided in two categories: IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy), which uses an external source of radiation, and LDR (Low Dose Rate brachytherapy), an internal source of radiation implanted in patients’ prostates.
Treatment for prostate cancer is not without risk, and so the authors sought to understand its impact on men’s urinary and sexual functioning. They surveyed men with prostate cancer before and after treatment, to report how therapy impacted their performance.
A total of 3,515 men completed 14,523 surveys. Fox Chase researchers found that in 28 months of treatment, LDR was associated with an increase in urinary problems of the urinary tract in the first three months but over time, patients reached baseline levels, and by 34 months no differences were found between LDR and IMRT.
2,624 surveys collected from 857 different men over a period of time were analyzed to identify Sexual problems associated with therapeutics, such as erectile dysfunction. No differences were found when comparing both forms of radiation, IMRT and LDR. The sexual problems reported were also temporary, with problems more likely to occur during a period of 3 to 7 months after surgery, possibly a consequence of nerve damage at the time of the surgery.
In the rare event of men reporting no sexual problems after surgery, post-operative radiation had no prejudicial effect over their performance.
Matthew Johnson, MD, Resident Physician in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Fox Chase noted in an institute press release, “This was a surprise, since radiation is known to cause sexual problems in men who don’t undergo surgery.” However, since sexual performance is a sensitive matter, caution is needed when analyzing these results, Dr. Johnson admitted.
Patient surveys are prone to be more reliable and thus represent a helpful tool to assess the impact of therapeutical approaches on patients’ lives.
“The ultimate goal is to develop a predictive tool that lets patients decide which treatment is right for them based on the symptoms they have beforehand, and their tolerance for any change — even temporary — in those symptoms. Based on this information, patients can select the treatment that they are most comfortable with,” Dr. Johnson added in the press release.