Context: Advances in screening and treatment of prostate cancer have dramatically increased the number of survivors in the US population. Yet the effect of screening is controversial, and in some instances may not be beneficial. Previous studies have typically only reported outcomes of treatment and symptoms within a short time frame following treatment. The persistence of such symptoms over time necessitates an improvement of survivor care so that the medical and support needs of these patients are met.
Objective: This study aims to perform a patient-centered survey of prostate cancer survivors in the Michigan Cancer Registry to identify treatment side effect rates, evaluate survivors' access to preventive care services post-prostate cancer treatment, and assess the informational needs of these survivors regarding their prostate cancer.
Design, setting, and patients: Linking case files of the Michigan Cancer Registry with records from the National Death Index, we identified prostate cancer patients diagnosed between 1985 and 2004 and alive on 31 December 2005. Participants were selected using a stratified cross-sectional sampling strategy to ensure adequate inclusion of survivors based upon race and ethnicity, urban versus rural location, and number of years since diagnosis of prostate cancer. A total of 2,499 surveys were completed and returned.
Main outcome measures: (1) Physical symptoms--assessing bowel, sexual, urinary, and vitality symptoms by treatment modality. (2) Access to care--identifying whether diagnostic tests for prostate cancer (prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and digital rectal examination) were performed. Determining whether the survivors had knowledge of the "watchful waiting" paradigm for prostate cancer surveillance. (3) Informational needs--assessing whether the informational needs of patients were addressed by providers. Evaluating the significant predictors associated with seeking information about prostate cancer from any other source. Identifying what factors influenced a person to actively seek out information and what factors guide which primary information source a survivor would use.
Results: Median duration between prostate cancer diagnosis and survey response was 9 years. Of the study population, 80 % was diagnosed at an early stage. Survivors had reported significant problems in the 4 weeks prior to survey. Of the survivors, 88.1 % reported having a PSA test since diagnosis of prostate cancer, with 93 % of them having it done at least once per year. Of the survivors, 82.6 % reported that a healthcare provider gave them information on prostate cancer. Of this 82.6 %, 86.4 % had this information provided by a urologist, 45.4 % by a primary care physician, and 29.2 % by an oncologist. The primary source of information for these survivors was "healthcare provider" (59.2 %).
Conclusion: Persistent symptoms subsequent to prostate cancer treatment suggest a gap in symptom management. Future research should support long-term studies of active surveillance versus active treatment outcomes to understand the feasibility of minimizing the burden of long-term physical symptoms arising from prostate cancer treatment. Clinicians must assess post-treatment distress long after treatment has ended to identify when supportive care is needed. More informational resources should be allocated to prostate cancer survivors to ensure that they are well-educated about their prognosis.
Implications for cancer survivors: This study is needed to ensure that the post-treatment symptoms of prostate cancer survivors are properly addressed and managed by healthcare providers over the long term.