Surgery to remove the entire prostate, called radical prostatectomy, and radiation therapy are both recommended treatments for low- and medium-risk prostate cancer, according to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines.
However, these guidelines state that, for men with low-risk prostate cancer, watchful waiting -- closely monitoring the disease and treating it only if it changes -- is the best option.
It remains to be seen how men who opt for watchful waiting will fare in terms of their urinary, sexual and bowel health, especially in the long-term, Resnick noted.
Previous research has found doing watchful waiting for one year after diagnosis was associated with lower rates of urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction, but higher rates of urinary blockage seven years later, compared to men who were treated immediately.
The current study involved 1,655 men who had stage 1 or 2 prostate cancer, which had not spread beyond the prostate. Men were diagnosed between ages 55 and 74 in 1994 and 1995, and most were treated in the year of diagnosis.
About 70 percent of the participants had radical prostatectomy, while the remaining 30 percent had external-beam radiation therapy, in which high-energy rays are directed from outside the body.
Treatment choice can vary based on a number of factors including age, prostate cancer stage and other diseases, Resnick said. The researchers took into account these differences when analyzing treatment outcomes.
The study authors asked the men about their urinary, sexual and bowel function before they had been diagnosed, as well as in the months following treatment. Participants also rated their own health in these areas.
Although there were declines afte
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