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Study looks at prostate cancer treatments

June 12, 2009 3:37:19 PM PDT
Prostate cancer is a scary diagnosis for men in their 50s and older. But what may be even more scary is that doctors don't have one treatment for it, and each man has to decide what's right for him. It can make patients even more anxious that they have to decide themselves on the correct treatment. Now, a new study from UCLA may make it easier for doctors to tell patients about the side effects of each treatment, how long they'll persist and whether or not they should expect a complete recovery.

In men between their 40s and 60s, prostate cancer is a big fear, so much so that biologist and researcher Dr. Michael Gershon imagined the cells growing in his body up to the time his treatment began.

"I had seen so many people die of prostate cancer that I felt that if the cancer were out of me, I would feel at lot better than if I were to continue living with it," he said.

So Gershon opted to have the cancer removed by surgery. The new report compared surgery to radioactive seed implants and external radiation as treatments for prostate cancer. It looked at the risks for side effect of sexual dysfunction, urinary incontinence and bowel irritation with each approach, and how long it took for patients to regain their pre-treatment function level.

"All treatments affect sexual dysfunction," said Dr. Mitchell Benson, of New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. "It is not limited to surgery. You can't treat prostate cancer and expect that your sexual function will not remain unadulterated."

In both seed radiation and external radiation, bowel and bladder problems were more common than with surgery.

Many things can be done about sexual dysfunction, including drugs like viagra, self injection and implants. But bowel and bladder problems, incontinence, urgency and painful bowel movements are more difficult to treat.

The report helps doctors give patients specifics on how long side effects may last for each treatment. Dr. Benson had laid them out for professor Gershon.

"All the side effects that I was warned I might have, I had," he said. "And now that I've gotten over them, I'm very very thankful that I made the decision that I did."

Dr. Benson says that it's critical for patients with prostate cancer to find a specialist who doesn't have preconceived ideas on how you should be treated, and who will be straight with you about the risks and benefits of each treatment approach in order to help you make the decision that's right for you.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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