Study shows men exhibit emotional distress from side effects of prostate cancer

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Study shows men exhibit emotional distress from side effects of prostate cancer

A study of over 1100 men found that side effects of prostate cancer treatments such as urinary, sexual, and bowel dysfunction can lead to heightened emotional distress for at least two years post-treatment.

Such side effects have been associated with a reduced quality and negative impact on men’s lives.  There are more than 2.8 million men who have survived prostate cancer in the United States and who have received therapies of surgery or radiotherapy in their course of treatment.  Many men will have symptoms affecting to some degree their urinary functioning such as urinary incontinence along with sexual functioning often including erectile dysfunction

It has always been known that these side effects do negatively affect a man physically.  What was not as well-known was to what degree these same side effects affected a man emotionally.   The purpose of the study was to determine whether urinary, bowel, and sexual dysfunction caused by prostate cancer therapy also led to emotional distress and vice versa. 

Published in The Journal of Urology, researchers recruited 1,148 men who were diagnosed with localized prostate cancer and who had received surgery or radiotherapy. To determine their urinary, sexual, and bowel function the Expanded Prostate Cancer Index Composite (EPIC) was used.  The Distress Thermometer was used to assess emotional distress. 

The study was designed so that assessments were conducted initially at pre-treatment, then at six weeks, and then at six, 12, 18, and 24 months post-treatment.

What the researchers found was that men experiencing worse side effects affecting their urinary, bowel, and sexual functioning also reported more emotional distress than men who had better functioning at all time points after treatment.

An interesting finding was that not only did the side effects lead to emotional distress, but men who had emotional distress to begin with, had worsened functioning.  Basically a man having high emotional distress, also appeared to be a likely candidate for poor urinary, bowel, and sexual function at each of the time periods of the study.

The findings and takeaway from this study is that physicians need to screen for and provide treatment of not only the possible side effects of treatment but also for heightened emotional distress. By having available accessible psycho-social care for men with emotional distress, this may possibly result in improved physical outcomes after prostate cancer surgery or radiotherapy and be potentially more cost-effective long-term.  This can be a win-win for the patient all around as it leads to better quality of life after prostate cancer.