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Urology. 1996 Mar;47(3):387-94.

Effect of pelvic radiotherapy for prostate cancer on bowel, bladder, and sexual function: the patient's perspective.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre, Canada.



To document the effects of pelvic radiotherapy on bowel, bladder, and sexual function, as reported by the patient.


A confidential questionnaire was distributed to 202 prostate cancer patients. Mean age was 70 years (range, 49 to 87) and mean follow-up was 33 months (range, 12 to 72). Radiation was given by a standard four field box technique on a linear accelerator to 60 to 66 Gy over 6.5 weeks. Treatment was limited to the prostate and seminal vesicles for small well-differentiated tumors, but otherwise included internal and external iliac nodes.


Responses were obtained from 192 patients (95%). No or mild change in bowel function was reported by 64% of patients, 25% reported moderate change, and 11% reported severe change. Rectal urgency was a concern for 20%, and 5% reported fecal soiling in the preceding 6 months. Hematochezia at least once a week was reported by 9% and daily by 5%. Frequent hematochezia decreased from 17% in the second and third post-treatment years to 4% after 3 years (P = 0.02). Transfusions or laser surgery for proctitis was required by 4%. No patient required a colostomy for rectal complications. Urinary stream was unchanged or improved for 83%. Nocturia was unchanged or improved in 70%. Some form of protection for urinary incontinence was required by 2%, and 0.5% noted frequent hematuria and 2% moderate to severe dysuria. Potency prior to radiotherapy was reported by 82% and was lost following radiotherapy in 35%. Technical factors, including treatment volumes and total dose, did not correlate to the risk of moderate or severe complications.


The sequelae of pelvic radiotherapy as viewed from the patient's perspective reveal a major alteration in bowel function in 11%, significant bladder symptoms in 4%, and loss of potency in 35%.

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