Localized Prostate Cancer Treatments: Comparing the Side Effects

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Several treatment options are available for localized prostate cancer. A 2017 study in JAMA finds there are distinct patterns of adverse effects associated with each.

Researchers conducted telephone interviews with 1,141 men (median age, 66) who had localized prostate cancer and had undergone treatment (prostatectomy, radiation, or brachytherapy) or chosen active surveillance. Using a scale of 0 (none) to 100 (worst possible), the interviewers asked the men to rate their experience with common side effects of treatment. Men were re-interviewed several times over a two-year period.

About one-quarter of the men initially chose active surveillance. Using those men as a comparison group (since they started out having no treatment side effects), the study found that men who had a radical prostatectomy were more likely to report sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence. Those who opted for radiation and brachytherapy had the highest scores for urinary obstruction and irritation. Radiation was more likely than the other treatments to cause bowel symptoms. For many men, these adverse effects diminished after two years.

If you are evaluating your prostate cancer treatment options, consider using this information to decide which adverse effects will have the greatest-or least-impact on your quality of life.