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New Test Predicts Risk for Impotence After Prostate Cancer Therapy
Date:9/21/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've developed a method that reasonably predicts which men undergoing prostate cancer treatment will suffer from impotence as a result.

The strategy could someday be one more ingredient in the decision-making process for men faced with the choice of whether to undergo certain prostate cancer therapies or simply "wait and see" if the tumor becomes aggressive.

"With cancer in general the most important goal is to prolong life and ensure survival," explained study senior author Dr. Martin G. Sanda, director of the prostate center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, as well as an associate professor of urology at Harvard Medical School. "But with early-stage prostate cancer most men do survive." The question then shifts, he said, to doing a better job predicting the kind of side effects each individual is likely to suffer from treatment for the disease.

"So, what we've got here," said Sanda, "is a simple, quick, but valid questionnaire that can greatly facilitate treatment decisions by moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach."

Based on an assessment of pre-treatment sexual function, quality of life, and tell-tale clinical markers, the tool could offer much-needed clarity for newly diagnosed patients, experts say.

Sanda and his colleagues report their findings in the Sept. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Diagnostic tests -- such as the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test -- can suggest the presence of a prostate tumor. The trouble is, many of these tumors are so slow-growing as to pose little threat to a man's health. But since it's still difficult to identify aggressive tumors, the decision to undergo active treatment becomes a tough one.

Most treatments come with side effects, of course. For prostate cancer therapy that often includes ere
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