According to results recently published in the *International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics,*men who are treated with brachytherapy for early-stage prostate cancer experience a good quality of life following treatment.
The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system that is responsible for producing some of the fluid that transports the sperm during male ejaculation. In prostate cancer, cancer cells form in the tissues of the prostate. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in men. Localized, or early-stage prostate cancer, refers to cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate or surrounding tissues. Men with localized prostate cancer have various treatment options. Since treatment decisions depend largely on associated side effects, information regarding the most common side effects of each modality is an important consideration for physicians and patients when making treatment decisions. Common side effects in treatment of the prostate include erectile dysfunction and urinary continence issues.
Brachytherapy, or interstitial radiation, is a type of radiation therapy in which radiation-emitting “seeds” are placed in and around the cancer. These seeds are left in place and may later be removed. Because information regarding long-term side effects associated with brachytherapy remains scarce, a large multi-institutional study was staged to evaluate this issue. The study included 98 men from 24 treating institutions. They were given three separate health-related quality of life questionnaires. The questionnaires were completed five times during brachytherapy and as long as one year following treatment. A year after treatment, 78% of respondents reported that they could achieve an erection (with or without assistance). On the other hand, 50% reported a decrease in sexual function, including sexual desire, activity, satisfaction, or fatigue. Urinary incontinence at one year following therapy was present in only 1% of respondents.
The researchers concluded that patients treated with brachytherapy for early-stage prostate cancer report a good overall quality of life. Urinary continence remained high, and rates for erectile function were acceptable. Men diagnosed with early prostate cancer should speak with their physician regarding their individual risks, benefits, and side effects of all available treatment options.
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Reference: Feigenberg S, Lee W, Desilvo M, et al. Health-related quality of life in men receiving prostate brachytherapy on RTOG 98-05. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. 2005;64: 956-964.