(NaturalNews) Two of three prostate cancer treatment types were linked with complaints of penis shrinkage in a study conducted by researchers from Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Connecticut, and University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and published in the journal Urology.
Some men reporting this side effect complained to that it had negatively affected their intimate relationships, or that it made them regret their choice of treatment type.
Researchers surveyed 948 men who had undergone prostate cancer treatment and had later suffered a recurrence. Eighty-eight percent of participants were aged 60 or older. Fifty-four percent had undergone prostate removal surgery, 24 percent had received a combination of radiation therapy and hormone-blocking drugs, and 22 percent had been treated with radiation therapy alone.
Both treatment by an external radiation device and by means of implanting radioactive seeds into the prostate (brachytherapy) were classified as "radiation therapy."
Among the men surveyed, 2.63 percent spontaneously reported that the length of the their penises had decreased after treatment. The prevalence of these complaints varied significantly depending on treatment type, with the effect reported in 3.73 percent of those who underwent surgery, 2.67 percent of those who underwent radiation therapy plus drugs, and by no patients in the radiotherapy only group.
"Previous studies have concluded that there is shortened penis length following prostatectomy," co-author Jim Hu noted. "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."
The current study did not measure penis sizes, however, and relied only on self-reports. Because of this, and because the men were not asked about penis size specifically, the authors believe that this side effect is significantly more common than the numbers in the current study would suggest.
The study also did not directly ask men about their sexual function.
"Sexual activity needs to be thoroughly measured owing to the obvious relationship with the patients' perception of penile length," wrote Luc Cormier of Dijon University Hospital in France, in an accompanying editorial.
Side effect well-known, rarely discussed
According to lead researcher Paul Nguyen, physicians and surgeons are well aware of the risks of penis shrinkage, "but it's almost never discussed with patients, so it can be very upsetting to some men when it occurs. Patients can deal with almost any side effect if they have some inkling ahead of time that they may happen."
The authors suggest that patients be told about this possible risk before they select a treatment option, so that they can make an informed choice.
"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," Nguyen said. "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."