Quality of life study in prostate cancer patients treated with three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy: comparing late bowel and bladder quality of life symptoms to that of the normal population

A L Hanlon, D Watkins Bruner, R Peter, G E Hanks
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2001 January 1, 49 (1): 51-9

PURPOSE: The goals of this study were twofold. First, differences were quantified for symptoms that impact bowel and bladder quality of life (QOL) in prostate cancer patients treated with three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3DCRT) alone to the prostate vs. whole pelvis with prostate boost. Second, bowel and bladder QOL measures for these patients were compared to those of the normal population of men with a similar age distribution.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Two health status surveys evaluating bowel and bladder functioning, along with the AUA Symptom Problem Index and the BPH Impact Index, were mailed to 195 prostate cancer patients treated with 3DCRT between 12/92 and 11/95 at Fox Chase Cancer Center by a single clinician (GH). No patient received hormonal management as part of his treatment. Ninety-five patients had pretreatment PSA levels <10 ng/ml, T1/T2A tumors with Gleason scores 2-6, and no perineural invasion. They were treated to the prostate alone and are referred to as Group I. The remaining 100 patients had one or more of the following characteristics: pretreatment PSA levels > or =10 ng/ml, T2B/T3 tumors, Gleason scores 7-10, or perineural invasion. These patients were treated to the whole pelvis followed by a boost to the prostate and are referred to as Group II. Frequencies were tabulated, and differences in percentages for the two groups were evaluated using the two-tailed Fisher's Exact Test. Overall percentages were compared to those for equivalent measures reported by Litwin (1999) based on a normal population of men with a mean age of 73 years (range 47-86). Comparisons to the normal population were also evaluated using two-tailed Fisher's Exact p values.

RESULTS: The mailing yielded a high response rate of 71% (n = 139, 66 in Group I and 73 in Group II). The mean age was 67 (range 49-82), and the median ICRU dose levels for Groups I and II were 73 and 76 Gy, respectively. Responses relating to bladder symptoms were similar for Groups I and II, except for the degree of bother associated with trouble in urination over the last month. Percentages for no bother at all were 66% and 56% for Groups I and II, respectively. Observed differences in bowel functioning related to rectal urgency over the past year (22% vs. 40% for Groups I and II, p = 0.03), the use of pads for protection against bowel incontinence (0% vs. 10% for Groups I and II, p = 0.01), and bowel satisfaction (88% vs. 72% for Groups I and II, p = 0.03). There was no significant difference in the degree of bother bladder symptoms cause men treated with radiotherapy as compared to men without cancer. Few patients reported bowel dysfunction bother as a big problem, but patients do tend to have more very small to moderate bother from bowel dysfunction than the normal population (55% vs. 33%, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: This is the first long-term study of QOL in men treated with high-dose 3DCRT for prostate cancer. It demonstrates that these men enjoy QOL related to bladder function similar to that of the normal population. Few patients report bother from bowel symptoms as a big problem but tend to have more very small to moderate bother than the normal population. Treatment of prostate cancer patients to the whole pelvis may result in decreased QOL as defined by rectal urgency, the use of pads for bowel incontinence, and satisfaction with bowel functioning. However, regardless of field size, men are generally satisfied with their bowel and bladder functioning three to six years post treatment.

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