Men who have undergone surgery for prostate cancer often experience significant levels of anxiety one year after the surgery, according to new research that links increased anxiety to poor sexual satisfaction and depression.
In a study published online in Psycho-Oncology, researchers at the Mayo Clinic suggest these men would benefit from counseling to address their worries and improve their quality of life.
While prostate cancer can be a life-threatening disease, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it, the researchers note.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 2.5 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive.
“The 10-year survival for a man undergoing surgery to remove localized prostate cancer is greater than 95 percent. Given that the majority of men who undergo prostatectomy for prostate cancer will not die from their disease, we are concerned about what life will be like for these patients decades after diagnosis and treatment,” said the study’s senior investigator, Alexander Parker, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology and urology.
In the study, the researchers asked 365 men to complete a questionnaire one year after they underwent prostate cancer surgery. The questionnaire was designed to measure anxiety levels about the fact they have been diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.
The men also completed additional questionnaires to measure levels of erectile function, sexual satisfaction and depression.
The results showed that those men who reported high anxiety levels are more likely to report low sexual satisfaction and a high rate of depression symptoms, according to the researchers.
“What is interesting from the sexual health standpoint is we observed that anxiety was not linked to poor erectile function per se but was linked to low levels of sexual satisfaction,” Parker said.
“If our results can be confirmed by other investigators, it would suggest that anxiety is not affecting some men’s ability to perform sexually but perhaps more their ability to enjoy their sex life.”
While the researchers observed that anxiety was generally higher in those men who had more aggressive forms of prostate cancer based on their pathology reports after surgery, a number of men with nonaggressive cancer also reported very high levels of anxiety, according to Parker.
“Among this specific subgroup of men with prostate cancer who have less aggressive disease we are talking about survival rates of nearly 100 percent, yet they think about cancer every day,” he noted. “This presents a great opportunity for identifying these men and offering intervention aimed at modifying this anxious behavior.”
Mayo Clinic offers cancer patients access to behavior-based counseling led by trained psycho-oncologists. Parker noted the results of this new study underscore the opportunity to test new ways of addressing this need in men with prostate cancer.
“Anxiety about a cancer diagnosis can lead to increased depressive symptoms and an inability to enjoy life’s activities, including sexual relations,” he said. “We are building on these results by designing trials to test whether counseling can help these patients.”
Source: Mayo Clinic