FRIDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that men who undergo prostate removal often suffer more from incontinence and impotence than they expected, even when counseled beforehand about possible aftereffects.
The findings suggest there's a wide gap between what men with prostate cancer expect post-surgery and what actually happens -- and that many are shocked by the level of dysfunction after the operation.
After the surgeries, "we find that men are very disappointed and very sad. It's as if they really didn't hear what was being told to them," said study lead author Daniela Wittmann, a sexual health coordinator at the University of Michigan's prostate cancer survivorship program.
Removal of the prostate, a treatment for prostate cancer, is especially common among younger men, while older men often turn to radiation, said Dr. Stephen Freedland, an associate professor of urology and pathology at Duke University in Durham, N.C. The procedure can lead to urinary incontinence, sometimes to the point where men need to wear padding, as well as difficulty attaining and maintaining an erection.
Prostate cancer is also sometimes treated with hormonal therapy, which can also lead to impotence and other serious side effects, or by "watchful waiting," which means having regular exams while doctors keep an eye on the tumor to see if it grows or spreads. The latter is usually recommended when physicians feel someone's age will allow them to outlive the generally slow-moving cancer.
The study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Urology.
The problem is that the prostate is located right next to the urinary sphincter and nerves that contribute to erections, Freedland said. The operation to remove the prostate can disrupt those other parts of the body.
Competition among doctors may cause them to downplay the risks, Freedland said. "If one
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