Unrealistic Cancer Expectations

Prostate cancer surgery more difficult than most

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Prostate cancer has the highest survival rate of all forms of the disease. It is often cured by removing the prostate, which is great, but patients underestimate what's involved in recovering from this surgery.

About half of the men who have a radical prostatectomy - surgery to remove a cancerous prostate - aren't realistic about the surgery's lingering side effects. That's what a study from the University of Michigan (U-M) Comprehensive Cancer Center study discovered.

"Prostate cancer surgery can cause urinary and sexual problems."

Researchers surveyed 152 men who were having prostate cancer surgery. The questionnaires were completed before surgery and after patients had received counseling on what to expect from the operation.

The men were asked about how they thought their urinary, bowel, sexual and hormonal function would be a year after the surgery took place.

Most of the men had correct expectations about hormonal and bowel function. Not so much for urinary and sexual function, though. The study found:

  • Only 36 percent had an accurate understanding regarding urinary incontinence (inability to control urine flow)
  • 40 percent of men were right about their level of sexual function one year after the surgery
  • 46 percent of patients had worse than expected urinary problems
  • 44 percent of men were disappointed with sexual function following the surgery

Study author Daniela Wittmann, M.S.W, sexual health coordinator at the U-M prostate cancer survivorship program, says that preoperative education covers the issues and provides men with the statistics. However, patients tend to consider they will do better than the statistics indicate, she says.

Wittmann suggests that in addition to providing explicit general information in preoperative counseling, additional support is needed "to help men and their partners with the recovery process after surgery in order to help them regain their intimate lives.”

This research is published in the Journal of Urology.

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Review Date: 
August 9, 2011
Last Updated:
August 10, 2011