Prostate cancer treatments differ in effects on quality of life

May 3, 2007

Radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation therapy, and brachytherapy affect a man's quality of life in different ways, according to a long-term study conducted by UCLA researchers. While the three treatment options rank about equally in survival outcomes in most men, specific effects on quality of life become paramount in making treatment decisions, said lead author Mark Litwin, MD.

Radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation therapy, and brachytherapy affect a man's quality of life in different ways, according to a long-term study conducted by UCLA researchers. While the three treatment options rank about equally in survival outcomes in most men, specific effects on quality of life become paramount in making treatment decisions, said lead author Mark Litwin, MD.

“The good news is that overall mental and physical well-being were not profoundly affected by any of the three treatment choices,” Dr. Litwin said. “That's good news for men with the sword of prostate cancer hanging over their heads. In general, they'll be OK no matter which of the three options they choose.”

Although the study tracked 580 men for 5 years, the reported results represent data from the first 2 years of the study. Those years, Dr. Litwin said, are when most of the negative impacts surface and resolve. Findings will be published in the June 1 issue of Cancer.

The team found that brachytherapy patients often experience obstructive and irritating urinary symptoms, as well as diarrhea and pain with stool. External beam radiation patients suffered from urinary irritation and bowel dysfunction similar to that of brachytherapy patients, and surgery patients more often reported incontinence symptoms and loss of sexual function.

Dr. Litwin and his team will continue to analyze the study data through the 5-year point. However, he expects little change because most symptoms typically begin to improve after the 2-year mark.