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Urology. 1999 Jan;53(1):161-8.

Changes in quality of life following treatment for early prostate cancer.

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  • 1Center for Health Quality, Outcomes, and Economic Research, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, Bedford, Massachusetts 01730, USA.



To explore the effects of urinary, bowel, and sexual symptoms following treatment for early (nonmetastatic) prostate cancer on health-related quality of life through an examination of the responsiveness of the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form Health Survey (SF-36).


We conducted a prospective observational cohort study of 125 men with early prostate cancer who underwent either radical prostatectomy or radical, external beam radiotherapy. Patients completed questionnaires, which included assessments of urinary, bowel, and sexual symptoms and the SF-36 at the time of their clinical consultation prior to deciding on primary therapy and at 3 and 12-month follow-up.


Although cross-sectional analysis showed substantial associations between symptoms and the eight scales of the SF-36 12 months after the initiation of treatment, longitudinal analyses of changes in these scales showed only modest effects. Three scales registered changes associated with the development of new symptoms: General Health Perceptions, Vitality, and Social Function. Role Performance with Emotional Limitations demonstrated a surprising response: slight improvements in men with new symptoms, compared with substantial gains in men who survived treatment without developing new urinary, bowel, or sexual symptoms. Overall, the SF-36 demonstrated a pattern of decline at 3 months and recovery to baseline at 12 months. Rather than registering declines in response to increasing symptoms, negative changes occurred primarily in men who presented symptoms prior to treatment and whose symptoms were unchanged 12 months later.


The SF-36 is associated with the presence of physical symptoms but demonstrates a complicated pattern of change following treatment and the development of new urinary, bowel, and sexual problems. Multidimensional approaches to the outcomes of treatment for early prostate cancer help to clarify the magnitude of both gains and losses in quality of life.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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