Proton therapy preserves quality of life (QOL), meaning specifically urinary and bowel function, in men treated with this targeted radiation modality for prostate cancer. This research obtained information directly from the men who underwent the therapy, rather than from their treatment providers.

The first study involved more than 1,000 patients who were treated with proton therapy for various stages of prostate cancer. The participants were all 1 to 10 years after their treatment, and they completed a survey to assess their health-related quality of life, including function and bother. Their self-reporting was compared with a cohort of 112 age-matched healthy men who did not have prostate cancer.

The men with prostate cancer who were treated with proton therapy reported excellent urinary and bowel summary scores that were similar to the healthy men. When sexual function was compared in both groups, a statistically significant difference was found.

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“However, when further analyzing these scores, it’s important to note that decreased sexual function is more often associated with those proton patients who also received hormone therapy, had higher Gleason scores, were older at time of treatment, and/or greater years post treatment,” study leader Andrew K. Lee, MD, MPH, of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center noted.

The second study focused only on patients who were treated at M.D. Anderson for prostate cancer with proton therapy, and compared those who received 75.6 GyE at 1.8 GyE/fraction to those who received 76 GyE at 2 GyE/fraction. At 3 years posttreatment, these groups did not have clinically significant differences in their urinary and bowel function from their baseline scores. The only meaningful difference in quality of life changes between the dose groups was sexual bother. Both groups had high satisfaction rates with their proton therapy.

“In general, our patients are interested in learning how they will do compared to those treated with other modalities, but, more importantly, they want to know how they are going to do relative to their own normal state of health. With such a large data set, this study offers us a guide to have that discussion with patients considering proton therapy,” said Lee.

These studies were reported at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).