-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A small number of men with
prostate cancer complain that their penis appears to be shorter
following treatment, doctors report.
According to researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
and Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, Boston, these patients said
that this unexpected side effect interfered with their intimate
relationships and made them regret the type of treatment they had
"Prostate cancer is one of the few cancers where patients have a choice of therapies, and because of the range of possible side effects, it can be a tough choice," study leader Dr. Paul Nguyen, a radiation oncologist, said in a Dana-Farber news release. "This study says that when penile shortening does occur, it really does affect patients and their quality of life. It's something we should be discussing up front so that it will help reduce treatment regrets."
The side effect was most common among men who had
prostatectomies, which is the surgical removal of the prostate, and
those who had hormone-based therapy coupled with radiation.
Nguyen added that most patients are able to cope with just about
any side effect if they know about it in advance.
The study involved 948 men with recurrent prostate cancer. The
men were enrolled in a registry that collects information on
patients whose prostate cancer shows signs of coming back after
their first treatment. Most of the men were between the ages of 60
and 80. Of the men involved in the study, 54 percent had their
prostate surgically removed, 24 percent received radiation combined
with hormone-blocking treatment and 22 percent chose to undergo
Overall, 2.6 percent of the men reported their penis was shorter
following treatment. However, rates for such complaints changed
depending on the type of therapy. For example, about 3.7 percent of
men who had had their prostate removed surgically said they thought
their penis had shrunk, as did about 2.7 percent of those who had
received male hormone-blocking drugs along with radiation
In contrast, there were no complaints of shorter penis size
among men who had received only radiation therapy from either an
external X-ray machine or had radioactive seeds implanted directly
into the prostate.
The study authors pointed out that the men's penises were not
measured before or after treatment -- the study's results were
based on the men's opinions. The men were also not asked about any
changes to their penis size. Instead, they brought this perceived
problem to their doctor's attention.
The researchers noted that this side effect of prostate cancer
treatment is not well-studied and the issue of shorter penis size
might be more common than what this study showed.
"Previous studies have concluded that there is shortened penis length following prostatectomy," study co-author Dr. Jim Hu, a surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, said in the news release. "This is most common with non-nerve sparing surgery, as this may result in fibrosis and atrophy of erectile tissue due to damage to nerve and vascular structures."
Dr. Luc Cormier, of Dijon University Hospital in France, wrote
an editorial accompanying the study. He noted that men's sexual
activity should also be examined since it is closely associated
with how they perceive the length of their penis.
The study was published in the January issue of
The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on
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