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Urology. 1999 Sep;54(3):509-16.

Comparative quality-of-life analysis after radical prostatectomy or external beam radiation for localized prostate cancer.

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Department of Urology, the Virginia Prostate Center, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Sentara Cancer Institute, Norfolk, USA.



To determine and compare quality-of-life (QOL) evaluations from patients who received external beam radiation therapy or radical prostatectomy for the treatment of localized prostate cancer, and to compare differences in QOL assessments for urinary and sexual function after radical prostatectomy as reported by patient and physician.


Two hundred three patients treated by radical prostatectomy and 257 patients treated by external beam irradiation, all beyond 12-month follow-up after therapy, responded to a QOL questionnaire. The difference in responses with regard to bladder, bowel, and sexual function, overall satisfaction with treatment, and choice of the same treatment were assessed. Satisfaction with and choice of the same treatment were also specifically assessed according to bowel and bladder function and current disease status. The medical records of patients treated by radical prostatectomy were reviewed by an independent data manager to record the physician's assessment of continence and sexual function for comparison with that patient's assessment as noted in the questionnaire.


Problems with urinary continence were more frequent among patients treated by radical prostatectomy; problems with gastrointestinal function were more frequent after irradiation. Sexual dysfunction was similar in both groups, although surgical patients experienced a greater impact on sexual relationships. The physician estimates of urinary continence were more favorable than the patient-reported outcomes. However, the physician estimate of sexual function closely approximated that of the patient. Preservation of sexual function among patients who underwent nerve-sparing surgery was disappointingly low. Only for the response to the question dealing with difficulty in achieving an erection was there a statistically significant benefit for patients receiving nerve-sparing versus non-nerve-sparing procedures. Patient satisfaction with and choice of the same treatment varied according to function and current disease status. Patients who had incontinence or bowel dysfunction or had evidence of recurrent disease were statistically less likely to choose the same treatment again when compared with functional and disease-free counterparts. Because irradiated patients were on average 6 years older than surgical patients, responses were adjusted for age; adjustment for age did not alter results.


QOL is determined by the treatment received, by the assessment source, and by the patient's function and disease status at the time of assessment. Prospective and longitudinal studies will more accurately quantify immediate and chronic alterations in QOL. Uniformity of evaluation through consolidation of QOL instruments will permit more accurate cross-series and cross-treatment comparisons.

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