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18 July 2005
Prostate Radiation Therapy Preserves Sexual Function
by George Atkinson

A study appearing in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology found that the majority of men receiving radiation therapy to combat early-stage prostate cancer were still able to achieve an erection and had a low rate of incontinence a year after treatment.

The study followed men from a number of cancer treatment centers who received low-dose rate prostate brachytherapy to combat their prostate cancer. Low-dose rate prostate brachytherapy involves implanting small radioactive seeds directly into the prostate gland.

The patients were surveyed using three separate health-related quality of life questionnaires, before, during and after undergoing the treatment. This allowed the researchers to gauge what effect the treatment was having on their sexual and urinary function.

Happily, one year after receiving treatment, 78 percent of the men were able to achieve an erection. But nearly 50 percent of the men did experience some loss of sexual function, such as reduced desire, activity, satisfaction and stamina.

Although the overall rate of incontinence was low at only 1 percent, some men did have difficulty urinating after one year. The researchers noted that typically, incontinence increases at the beginning of treatment and is completely gone after one year.

"This study has provided us with valuable data that will help radiation oncologists better address possible side effects patients may have after receiving seed implants for prostate cancer," said study author Steven J. Feigenberg, a radiation oncologist at Fox Chance Cancer Center.

More info on radiation therapy: http://www.astro.org/patient/treatment_information/

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