A better quality of life for prostate cancer survivors
men diagnosed with prostate cancer a year
1 in 3
survivors need more support than they are getting
at increased risk of suicide than other men
Across NSW, about 6,690 men will hear the words “you have prostate cancer” each year. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian men (aside from common skin cancers). Although treatments for prostate cancer have a very high success rate in saving lives, survivors often experience distressing side-effects – the most common being impotence, incontinence and bowel problems. Despite this, there has been limited research into the long-term effects on survivors’ quality of life.
By following a group of prostate cancer survivors and comparing their quality of life with a control group of men the same age without prostate cancer, our researchers found men are still experiencing significant adverse quality of life outcomes 15 years after prostate cancer diagnosis.
Long-term impacts of prostate cancer
The study looked at the long-term impacts of prostate cancer on sexual function, urinary incontinence, bowel problems, and physical and mental wellbeing, across all common treatment approaches. Persistent problems with erectile dysfunction were common across all treatments and occurred at much higher rates than in men of the same age without prostate cancer.
In another study with the same group of survivors, the researchers also found that a third of prostate cancer survivors need more support than they are getting. The most frequently reported unmet needs were related to comprehensive cancer care (34%), including lack of medical team coordination and control over the treatment process. Another common concern was ongoing problems with sexual function (13%). Of the men who reported this, 87% rated their need as moderate or severe.
Sexual function can be a sensitive topic that not all patients and clinicians are comfortable discussing, especially when there are difficulties.
– Carolyn Mazariego, lead researcher
Survivors feel they lack the support they need
With a previous Cancer Council NSW study finding that men diagnosed with prostate cancer are at a 70% increased risk of suicide than other men, Associate Professor David Smith said it was vital that prostate cancer patients and survivors were treated holistically.
“Due to improved detection and diagnosis, the number of men surviving long after diagnosis has been steadily increasing. This latest research shows that a significant proportion of these men are still suffering the consequences of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment and don’t feel they are getting the support they need,” he said.
Lead researcher Carolyn Mazariego said the study shows the need to normalise discussions about sexual function.
“Sexual function can be a sensitive topic that not all patients and clinicians are comfortable discussing, especially when there are difficulties,” she said.
“Nevertheless, in order to holistically address patient quality of life these conversations need to be initiated and we should be looking to equip our treating clinicians with models or strategies to address this topic, especially as we now know that it is a persisting long-term issue for prostate cancer survivors.”