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Keywords:

  • prostate cancer;
  • radical prostatectomy;
  • sexual function;
  • sexual bother;
  • quality of life

Study Type – Therapy (outcomes research) Level of Evidence 2c

OBJECTIVE

To quantitatively assess the effect of radical prostatectomy (RP) on the specific domains that comprise overall sexual function (SF), focusing on the relationships among these domains and overall SF, and to identify predictors for recovery of SF over time, as a decline in SF and sexual bother (SB) are known potential complications of treatment for prostate cancer.

PATIENTS AND METHODS

Within the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor database, we identified men diagnosed between 1995 and 2001 with localized prostate cancer treated with RP. SF and SB outcomes, measured using the University of California Los Angeles Prostate Cancer Index, were assessed at 6-month intervals for 4 years after RP.

RESULTS

In all, 620 men met the study criteria; at 6 months after RP, overall and all the specific domains of SF declined, with improvement in most specific domains by 2 years after RP. The greatest declines were in the ability to achieve erections, high-quality erections, and frequent erections; these domains were also most strongly correlated with overall SF. Sexual desire was relatively preserved, and there was a weak correlation between overall SF and sexual desire after RP, when there was the greatest discrepancy between sexual desire and other domains of function. SB showed continued improvement over time to 4 years but was not well correlated with any measurements of SF assessed. Younger age, college education, sexual aid and medication use, the absence of comorbid conditions, and nerve-sparing surgery were predictive of significant recovery of function in several specific domains of SF.

CONCLUSIONS

RP affects specific domains of SF to differing degrees. Compromised erectile function is most commonly reported among these specific domains and seems to play a more dominant role in determining overall SF, but notably none of the domains of function were closely linked to SB. Because education is protective in the perception of bother, appropriate counselling and the setting of expectations for outcomes in overall and specific domains of SF might lead to improved quality of life after treatment for prostate cancer.