In the new study, published in the Journal of Urology, it reported that men with prostate cancer who were observed side effects after surgery or radiation therapy (frequent urination, sexual dysfunction) was more severe emotional stress. The results emphasize the importance of psycho-social assistance to mitigate the side effects of the treatment.
Patients with cancer often experience emotional stress, not only for diagnosis and treatment, but also with long-term recovery. Studies have shown that measures to reduce the emotional burden of disease in patients with cancer may contribute to a faster recovery and reduce associated costs.
After surgery, men may experience incontinence, especially in the first year after treatment, and the majority are experiencing erectile dysfunction, even two years after the operation. Although most patients beat cancer, stress levels decrease, for some it is stagnant.
"For patients with prostate cancer a major challenge is to mitigate the impact of adverse effects on quality of life, including psychological well-being" - says Heather Orom, associate professor at the University of Buffalo, USA.
In the current study, the authors studied how problems with urination and sexual activity affect the emotional state during the first two years after treatment, and whether stress exacerbate these problems. They assessed more than 1,100 men diagnosed with prostate cancer who underwent surgery (63%), or who have undergone radiation therapy (37%). Urethral, bowel and sexual function were assessed using the extended index of prostate cancer, and emotional stress was assessed on a scale. Patients were evaluated at baseline, six weeks after surgery and at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months.
The results showed a relationship between side effects and emotional disorder. As researchers studied the condition of the patients for a long period, they were able to establish a strong evidence of a causal link between the functions of the body after the final treatment, and stress levels.
Data show that the provision of psychosocial support to help alleviate side effects. "As urologists, we want men who have passed the treatment of prostate cancer , returned to normal life. To do this, we need to identify effective ways to support and help, "- says Willie Underwood, co-author of the study, MD, of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Roswell, Buffalo, USA.
The researchers propose to make changes in the health policies that will improve the welfare of ex-patients: to expand access to health insurance for the treatment of erectile dysfunction and provide access to psycho-oncological care in the diagnosis and after treatment for men who are experiencing high levels of stress. "Given the relationship between side effects and emotional disorder, it makes sense for institutions that previously did not include psychosocial care into practice" - explain the researchers.