Men and clinicians need reliable population based information when making decisions about investigation and treatment of prostate cancer. In the absence of clearly preferred treatments, differences in outcomes become more important.
To investigate rates of adverse physical effects among prostate cancer survivors 2-15 years post diagnosis by treatment, and estimate population burden.
A cross sectional, postal survey to 6,559 survivors (all ages) diagnosed with primary, invasive prostate cancer (ICD10-C61), identified in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland via cancer registries. Questions included symptoms at diagnosis, treatments received and adverse physical effects (impotence, urinary incontinence, bowel problems, breast changes, libido loss, hot flashes, fatigue) experienced ‘ever’ and ‘current’ i.e. at questionnaire completion. Physical effect levels were weighted by age, country and time since diagnosis for all prostate cancer survivors. Bonferroni corrections were applied to account for multiple comparisons.
Adjusted response rate 54%, (n=3,348). 75% reported at least one current physical effect (90% ever), with 29% reporting at least three. These varied by treatment. Current impotence was reported by 76% post-prostatectomy, 64% post-external beam radiotherapy with hormone therapy, with average for all survivors of 57%. Urinary incontinence (overall current level: 16%) was highest post-prostatectomy (current 28%, ever 70%). 42% of brachytherapy patients reported no current adverse physical effects; however 43% reported current impotence and 8% current incontinence. Current hot flashes (41%), breast changes (18%) and fatigue (28%) were reported more commonly by patients on hormone therapy.
This study provides evidence that adverse physical effects following prostate cancer represent a significant public health burden; an estimated 1.6% of men over 45 is a prostate cancer survivor with a current adverse physical effect. This information should facilitate investigation and treatment decision-making and follow-up care of patients.