The majority of prostate carcinoma survivors experience enduring sexual difficulties and associated distress in the years after definitive treatment. A counseling intervention aimed at improving levels of sexual satisfaction and increasing successful utilization of medical treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) was developed and pilot-tested for both the survivor of prostate carcinoma and his partner.
All male participants were 3-month to 5-year survivors of localized prostate carcinoma who had been treated with radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy, and were married or in a committed relationship. Couples were randomized to attend four sessions of counseling together or to have the man attend alone. In both groups, partners completed behavioral homework. The sessions included education on prostate carcinoma and sexual function and options to treat ED as well as sexual communication and stimulation skills. Standardized questionnaires at baseline, posttreatment, and at 3-month and 6-month follow-up assessed sexual function, marital adjustment, psychologic distress, and utilization of treatments for ED.
Fifty-one of 84 couples randomized to treatment completed the intervention (61%). Attendance by the partner did not affect outcomes. Participants completing the intervention demonstrated improvment in male overall distress (P < 0.01), male global sexual function (P < 0.0001), and female global sexual function (P < 0.05) at 3-month follow-up, but regression toward baseline was noted at 6-month follow-up. However, utilization of ED treatments increased from 31% at the time of study entry to 49% at the 6-month follow-up (P = 0.003).
The results of this brief pilot counseling intervention demonstrated significant gains in sexual function and satisfaction and increased utilization of treatments for ED. However, modifications are needed in future randomized trials to reduce the rate of premature termination and to improve long-term maintenance of gains. Cancer 2005. © 2005 American Cancer Society.