Diagnosis and surgery for prostate cancer reduces quality of life

One year after men undergo surgical removal of prostate cancer, they have significant anxiety, which appears to be linked to poor sexual satisfaction and depression. The men who experience high levels of “cancer-specific anxiety” after surgery for prostate cancer are likely to benefit from counseling that addresses their worries and improves their quality of life. This research was reported in Psycho-Oncology, and conducted at the Mayo Clinic's Florida campus.

Since the 10-year survival rate for a man undergoing surgery to remove localized prostate cancer is more than 95%, the researchers were concerned with what life will be like for these patients in the decades following diagnosis and treatment.

This study examined findings in 365 men who completed several questionnaires 1 year after surgery for prostate cancer. One questionnaire measured their anxiety levels about the diagnosis and undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, and others inquired about levels of erectile function, sexual satisfaction, and depression.

“What is interesting from the sexual health standpoint is we observed that anxiety was not linked to poor erectile function per se but was linked to low levels of sexual satisfaction,” stated Alexander Parker, PhD, senior investigator and associate professor of epidemiology and urology. “If our results can be confirmed by other investigators, it would suggest that anxiety is not affecting some men's ability to perform sexually but perhaps more their ability to enjoy their sex life.” The men with high anxiety levels were more likely to report low sexual satisfaction and a high rate of depression symptoms.

Though anxiety was generally higher in the men with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, a number of men with nonaggressive cancer also reported very high levels of anxiety. Parker explained, “Among this specific subgroup of men with prostate cancer who have less aggressive disease, we are talking about survival rates of nearly 100%, yet they think about cancer every day. This presents a great opportunity for identifying these men and offering intervention aimed at modifying this anxious behavior.”

Parker stated that the results of this study underscore the opportunity to test new ways of addressing the need for behavior-based counseling led by trained psycho-oncologists. His research team is building on the results of this study to design trials to test whether counseling can help these patients.
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