Surgery to remove prostate cancer could result in high levels of anxiety among men, which is associated with depression and sexual dissatisfaction, according to Mayo Clinic researchers from the Florida campus.

The recent report, which was published in Psycho-Oncology, said that counseling for men who suffer from “cancer-specific anxiety” after undergoing prostate cancer surgery could significantly help improve quality of life and worries about their disease.

Alexander Parker, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and an associate professor of epidemiology and urology, commented:

“The 10-year survival for a man undergoing surgery to remove localized prostate cancer is greater than 95 percent. Given that the majority of men who undergo prostatectomy for prostate cancer will not die from their disease, we are concerned about what life will be life for these patients decades after diagnosis and treatment.”

The American Cancer Society said that more than 2.5 million men in the U.S. who have received a prostate cancer diagnosis have not died from the disease, regardless of the fact that it is life-threatening.

“The odds of surviving for long periods of time following surgery for prostate cancer are very high,” according to Gregory Broderick, M.D. a urology professor. “That means a lot of men are living as prostate cancer survivors and we are Mayo Clinic are committed to understanding factors that affect their quality of life, not just their quantity of life.”

These findings were presented by Broderick in Chicago this summer at the collaborative meeting of the International Society for Sexual Medicine and the Sexual Medicine Society of North America.

Statistics from other trials involving patients with other kinds of cancer have revealed that anxiety is damaging to quality of life. One study, conducted in 2010, suggested that African-American men with prostate cancer have a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms and appear to enjoy better emotional quality of life, compared with Caucasian men.

Parker continued: “Our study is the first to specifically show that those men with higher cancer-specific anxiety one year after surgery for prostate cancer are more likely to report lower levels of satisfaction with their sex life and higher levels of depressive symptoms.”

During the new study, the experts from Mayo Clinic analyzed results of a survey that 365 men completed one year after having prostate cancer surgery. The questions were established in order to measure anxiety levels regarding feelings about their diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. In addition, the men were asked to answer questions about depression, sexual satisfaction and erectile function. The authors discovered that men who said their anxiety levels were the highest were more inclined to experience depressive symptoms and sexual dissatisfaction.

The doctor continued:

“What is interesting from the sexual health standpoint is we observed that anxiety was not linked to poor erectile function per se but was linked to low levels of sexual satisfaction. If our results can be confirmed by other investigators, it would suggest that anxiety is not affecting some men’s ability to perform sexually but perhaps more their ability to enjoy their sex life.”

Dr. Parker and his team have discovered that although higher levels of anxiety were found among men who had worse types of prostate cancer, based on their pathology reports they are undergoing surgery. Many men who did not have aggressive forms of the cancer claimed they had high levels of anxiety as well.
Psychosomatic Medicine, says that stress management prior to prostate cancer surgery can help lower mood disturbance.

“Anxiety about a cancer diagnosis can lead to increased depressive symptoms and an inability to enjoy life’s activities, including sexual relations,” concluded Dr. Parker. “We are building on these results by designing trials to test whether counseling can help these patients.”

Written by Christine Kearney