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Medical professionals are studying side effects of various treatments for the prostate
When men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early stage, sufferers must choose how to continue their treatment. Current research may make this decision easier. Researchers are now investigating the effects and side effects of various treatments.
The researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center determined which type of treatment was best for which stage of prostate cancer. To do this, the experts analyzed the side effects of various treatment methods for men with early prostate cancer. The doctors published the results of their study in the medical journal "JAMA".
Prostate cancer patients suffer from loss of quality of life
Current research shows that after surgery, sexual problems and urinary incontinence are more common compared to radiation. There are also clear differences in the quality of life of those affected. Men in particular suffer from the uncertainty as to whether the cancer will spread or not, the experts explain. This problem affects most men with the condition.
Watching and waiting can be a sensible option for sufferers
Given the previous research, which showed comparable survival rates, the current results also support medical observation (watchful waiting) of the disease as a sensible option for men in the early stages of prostate cancer. This applies especially to less aggressive tumors, explains Dr. Daniel Barocas from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. However, men who choose such an observation as treatment may have problems with an enlarged prostate. These include frequent urination, for example.
Results can help you choose treatment more easily
Current research could help make it easier for patients to choose future treatment. This saves those affected from the stress of making decisions, the experts say. After their diagnosis, many sufferers are in a kind of shock mode. When doctors tell them about the cancer stage, tumor size, treatment options and potential side effects, it sounds like a foreign language to most patients, the scientists explain. Then the sufferers have to choose the method with which the cancer should be treated.
What health problems does treatment lead to?
The quality of life of the sick depends on the type of treatment. Restrictions on sexual function and problems with urination can also be attributed to the method of treatment. The results of current research ensure that men in the early stages of prostate cancer are better informed about possible restrictions that arise from the type of treatment.
How common is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is diagnosed in over a million men worldwide each year. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be approximately 160,000 new cases of prostate cancer this year in the United States alone. In addition, there are more than 26,000 deaths from the disease, say the experts.
What methods of treatment are there?
To treat prostate cancer, doctors use surgery or radiation, among other things. Surgery with the help of robots can be used to remove the prostate by making small incisions. Alternatively, precision radiation is used to protect the surrounding tissue, the doctors explain. In a study by the University of North Carolina, the researchers used a special type of radiation that is introduced into the tumor by radioactive pellets. The scientists have yet to assess how this new method will affect the quality of life of those affected.
Quality of life deteriorates with increasing age
The results mostly show the side effects of older option methods. Persistent impotence and incontinence are more common after surgery. In addition, patients who have been exposed to external radiation are more likely to report short-term bowel problems. The differences in quality of life due to the type of treatment have decreased over the period of the study. This is at least in part because the quality of life deteriorates with age in all men, the authors say. This was also observed in those who chose medical observation as the treatment method.
Doctors examine nearly 3,700 men for study purposes
Almost 3,700 men were examined in current studies. These were on average aged 60 years or older. Subjects had to fill out questionnaires regularly over a period of two to three years, the experts explain. This time is not long enough to compare so-called recurrence or survival rates. Therefore, the focus of the researchers was on the persistent symptoms of the sick.
Effects on men's sexual function
If men had normal sexual functions prior to their illness, more than 57 percent of patients experienced deteriorated function two years later after surgery. In comparison, the value for so-called radiation implants was 34 percent, external radiation led to a deterioration in 27 percent of the patients, the authors explain. If those affected chose medical surveillance, the figure was 25 percent.
How do the treatment methods affect urinary incontinence?
Three years later, 14 percent of those who had chosen surgery had significant problems with urinary incontinence. For comparison, only six percent of men under medical observation had these problems. When treated with radiation therapy, five percent of patients developed urinary incontinence, the scientists add. (as)