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Study Focuses on Sexual Function of Prostate Cancer Patients Who Received Radiation; Tobacco Use Dramatically Affects Potency Rates

PHILADELPHIA (November 1, 1999) — A study over six years at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pa., demonstrates excellent post-treatment sexual function rates for men 65 years or younger with prostate cancer who received 3D conformal radiation therapy. Men who smoked at the time of treatment or had been smokers had a dramatically lower rate of sexual potency. This study was conducted initially three years after treatment and now includes information gathered after six years. The results were presented today at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Sixty-seven men aged 65 years or younger who were treated between 1989 and 1993 with 3D conformal radiation therapy for clinically localized prostate cancer have had their sexual function compared to age-matched controls using the Sexual Adjustment Questionnaire (SAQ). The SAQ is a validated questionnaire designed specifically to assess sexual function of cancer patients prior to and following treatment. This survey was initially conducted at a median follow-up of three years and now has been updated with a median follow-up of six years.

Of the treated patients, 50 percent returned completed surveys as compared to 37.5 percent of the controls. For the patient evaluated at three years, 91 percent were potent before treatment. After treatment, 73 percent were potent after three years. This compares to 85 percent potency for the controls. At six years, potency of the treated patient dropped 14 percent (59%)and potency for the controls dropped seven percent (78%).

"After radiation, a vast majority of men retain potency," explains James C. Wurzer, a radiation oncologist, Fox Chase Cancer Center. "More importantly, these men retain sexual function for a long time. These potency rates are superior to most radical prostatectomy series. I think this study provides an accurate quality of life assessment for patients making decision about how to treat their disease."

A history of past or current tobacco use impacted significantly on the potency rate of treated patients.The potency rate for current smokers is 0 percent compared to 64 percent for non-current smokers.

"It's yet another example of how devastating smoking can be to the body," added Wurzer. "This study shows what appears to be a direct connection between smoking and the loss of potency for men undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer."

Controls for the study were identified by a mass mailing inviting eligible age-matched men 65 years of age or less to participate in this anonymous survey. Factors including diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, cerebral vascular disease, hypertension, alcohol use, ingestion, androgen ablation therapy, and tobacco use were correlated with potency rates. Statistical analysis comparing treated patient was conducted using the Fisher's exact test. There was no significant impact on potency rate for patients diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, cerebral vascular disease, hypertension, or in patients consuming more than eight ounces of alcohol per day.

The mean and median ages of patients at the initiation of radiation therapy were 61 and 61 years respectively. Presently the mean and median ages of treated patients are 67 and 68 years respectively. The mean and median ages of the age-matched controls are presently both 66 years.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 36 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research, prevention, detection and treatment of cancer and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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