Feature Archive

Just for Men

The common side effects of prostate surgery.

WebMD Feature

March 6, 2000 (Mill Valley, Calif.) -- Frank Luton was in his mid-40s when he had to make a harrowing choice. During a routine physical examination, Luton's doctor discovered a hard spot in his prostate -- a lump that proved to be malignant. Luton opted to have his prostate removed, even though he knew there was a chance the surgery could leave him impotent and incontinent.

Today, at age 57, the former corporate executive from Stone Mountain, Ga., is alive and well and traveling the world as a business consultant. But just as he feared, the operation that saved his life left him incontinent for the first six months and permanently impotent. He now uses a penile implant to restore sexual functioning.

Doctors have long known that both impotence and incontinence can result from prostate cancer surgery. Unfortunately, a recent study suggests that these consequences may be more common than previously thought. A report in the January 19, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association detailing the Prostate Cancer Outcomes Study indicated that 59.9% of men studied were impotent and 8.4% were incontinent for at least 18 months after surgery.

"Impotence as a result of radical prostatectomy is a much larger problem than is often quoted in the media," says Janet L. Stanford, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and co-author of the study. Indeed, impotence was common even when doctors used new surgical techniques designed to spare nerves near the prostate that control urine flow and erections.


Health Solutions From Our Sponsors