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Incidence of complications other than urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction after radical prostatectomy or radiotherapy for prostate cancer: a population-based cohort study


Background — Studies of complications resulting from surgery or radiotherapy for prostate cancer have mainly focused on incontinence and erectile dysfunction. We aimed to assess other important complications associated with these treatments for prostate cancer.

Methods — We did a population-based retrospective cohort study, in which we used administrative hospital data, physician billing codes, and cancer registry data for men who underwent either surgery or radiotherapy alone for prostate cancer between 2002 and 2009 in Ontario, Canada. We measured the 5-year cumulative incidence of five treatment-related complication endpoints: hospital admissions; urological, rectal, or anal procedures; open surgical procedures; and secondary malignancies.

Findings — In the 32,465 patients included in the study, the 5-year cumulative incidence of admission to hospital for a treatment-related complication was 22.2% (95% CI 21.7–22.7), but was 2.4% (2.2–2.6) for patients whose length of stay was longer than 1 day. The 5-year cumulative incidence of needing a urological procedure was 32.0% (95% CI 31.4–32.5), that of a rectal or anal procedure was 13.7% (13.3–14.1), and that of an open surgical procedure was 0.9% (0.8–1.1). The 5-year cumulative incidence of a second primary malignancy was 3.0% (2.6–3.5). These risks were significantly higher than were those of 32,465 matched controls with no history of prostate cancer. Older age and comorbidity at the time of index treatment were important predictors for a complication in all outcome categories, but the type of treatment received was the strongest predictor for complications. Patients who were given radiotherapy had higher incidence of complications for hospital admissions, rectal or anal procedures, open surgical procedures, and secondary malignancies at 5 years than did those who underwent surgery (adjusted hazard ratios 2.08–10.8, p<0.0001). However, the number of urological procedures was lower in the radiotherapy than in the surgery group (adjusted hazard ratio 0.66, 95% CI 0.63–0.69; p<0.0001)

Interpretation — Complications after prostate cancer treatment are frequent and dependent on age, comorbidity, and the type of treatment. Patients and physicians should be aware of these risks when choosing treatment for prostate cancer, and should balance them with the clinical effectiveness of each therapy.



Nam RK, Cheung P, Herschorn A, Saskin R, Su J, Klotz LH, Chang M, Kulkarni GS, Lee Y, Kodama RT, Narod SA. Oncology. 2014; 15(2):223-31. Epub 2014 Feb 1.

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