Quality of life, self-esteem, fatigue, and sexual function in young men after cancer: a controlled cross-sectional study

Diana M Greenfield, Stephen J Walters, Robert E Coleman, Barry W Hancock, John A Snowden, Stephen M Shalet, Leonard R DeRogatis, Richard J M Ross
Cancer 2010 March 15, 116 (6): 1592-601

BACKGROUND: Androgen deficiency is increasingly recognized in young male cancer survivors; however, its impact on quality of life (QOL) is not established. The authors investigated the relationship between androgen levels, QOL, self-esteem, fatigue, and sexual function in young male cancer survivors compared with control subjects.

METHODS: A cross-sectional, observational study of 176 male cancer survivors and 213 male controls aged 25 to 45 years was performed. Subjects completed 3 QOL scales (Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey version 2, the 12-item General Health Questionnaire [GHQ-12], and Aging Male Scale), and measures of self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale), fatigue (Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue), and sexual function (Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning-II Self-Report-Male).

RESULTS: Cancer survivors had lower scores for all components of the Short-Form Health Survey, Aging Male Scale, and Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue, and for 4 of 5 subsections of the Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning than controls. The majority of these differences remained after adjusting by linear regression analysis. Levels of psychiatric disorder or self-esteem did not differ between the 2 groups. In cancer survivors, those with androgen deficiency (serum testosterone < or = 10 nmol/L) had lower scores than those without for all components of the Short-Form Health Survey, the General Health Questionnaire, Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue, and the Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning. Serum testosterone only weakly correlated with health measures.

CONCLUSIONS: Young male cancer survivors self-report a marked impairment in QOL, energy levels, and quality of sexual functioning, and this was exacerbated in those with androgen deficiency. However, psychological distress was not elevated, self-esteem was normal, and sexual relationships were not impaired. The relationship with testosterone is complex, and appears dependent on a threshold level rather than direct correlation. Interventional trials are needed to determine whether testosterone replacement would improve QOL in young male cancer survivors.

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