Showing posts with label sexual function. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sexual function. Show all posts

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Erectile Function after SBRT

Erectile function after radiation is of great interest to many men trying to decide between surgery and radiation, and to decide among the several radiation treatment options. Dess et al. reported the outcomes of men who received stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), often known by the brand name CyberKnife.

Between 2008 and 2013, 273 patients with localized prostate cancer were treated at Georgetown University. All patients filled out the EPIC questionnaire at baseline, which includes several questions on erectile function. The authors focused on the question asking whether erections were firm enough for intercourse, irrespective of whether they used ED meds. A similar questionnaire, SHIM, was also used, but results were similar. Answers were tracked over time with analyses at 2 years and at 5 years. Importantly, the median age at baseline was 69 years. At 2 years:
  • About half the men had functional erections at baseline
  • Among those with functional erections at baseline, 57% retained potency
  • The largest loss occurred by 3 months after treatment, with about 2/3 retaining potency at 3 months
  • 2/3 retained potency at 3 months regardless of age
  • Men under 65 suffered no further loss of potency, even after 5 years
  • Men 65 and over continued to lose potency
    • About half retained potency at 2 years
    • About 40% retained potency at 5 years
The authors also looked at other causes of erectile dysfunction, including partner status, BMI, diabetes, cardiovascular disease,  depression, baseline testosterone levels, and baseline use of ED meds. None of those, except BMI, had a statistically significant effect in this patient population at 2 years post treatment.  Some gained importance by 5 years, but because they are age dependent, and also affect baseline ED, none except BMI were independently important after baseline function and age were accounted for. A few known risk factors for ED were not included: medications (e.g., beta blockers, testosterone supplementation, etc.), smoking, and substance abuse. Some of that data was collected and may be included in a subsequent analysis.

There is a source of statistical error called colinearity, which arises when 2 variables, like baseline potency and age, are substantially interlinked. Although they were independently associated with erectile function, there is considerable overlap, especially when patient age was over the median (69). It may be useful to separate the effect of one from the other. This is accomplished by using age-adjusted baseline erectile function in the same way that economists look at inflation-adjusted GNP. I hope the authors will look at this. As we saw, an analysis of brachytherapy utilizing a different technique showed that half of the loss of potency among men who had brachytherapy was due to aging.

The effect of age on potency preservation cannot be overemphasized. Undoubtedly, radiation can cause fibrosis in the penile artery, and fibrosis is worse in older men. But, contrary to a prevalent myth, those radiation effects occur very early. Following that early decline, the declines in potency are primarily attributable to the normal effects of aging (which include occlusion of the vasculature supplying the penis.) As we've seen in other studies, most of the radiation-induced ED will show up within the first two years, and probably within 9 months of treatment. This was shown for 3D-CRT in the  ProtecT clinical trial,  for brachytherapy, for SBRT, and for EBRT.

Looking at other reports of potency preservation following SBRT, the Georgetown experience (57% potency preservation) seems to be on the low end. There has only been one report of lower potency preservation: 40% at 3 years among 32 patients. An earlier report from Georgetown reported 2-year potency preservation at 79% at 24 months. Dr. Dess explained that the earlier report included men with lower potency at baseline. However, because baseline potency is highly associated with post-treatment potency, the outcomes should be in the other direction. The discrepant data are puzzling. At 38 months post treatment, Bernetich et al. reported potency preservation in 94% among 48 treated patients. Friedland et al.  reported 2-year potency preservation at 82%. Katz reported potency preservation of 87% at 18 months. Although, different patient groups may respond differently, it is difficult to understand why potency preservation was so much lower in the current study. These discrepancies argue for a more standardized approach to analyzing erectile function after treatment, and the present study makes a good start towards that goal.

Compared to other radiation therapies, SBRT fares well. Evans et al. looked at SBRT at Georgetown and two 21st Century Oncology locations and compared it to low dose rate brachytherapy (LDR-BT) and IMRT as reported in the PROSTQA study. At 2 years, among patients who had good sexual function at baseline, EPIC scores declined by 14 points for SBRT, 21 points for IMRT, and 24 points for LDR-BT( the minimum clinically detectable change on that measure is 10-12 points). There has been only one randomized trial comparing extreme hypofractionation to moderate hypofractionation. In that Scandinavian trial, they used an older technique called 3D-CRT, which would never be used today to deliver extreme hypofractionation (at least I hope not!). In spite of the outmoded technology, sexual side effects of of the two treatments were not different. In an analysis from Johnson et al. comparing SBRT and hypofractionated IMRT, the percent of patients reporting minimally detectable differences in sexual function scores was statistically indistinguishable in spite of the SBRT patients being 5 years older.

Dess et al. also looked at sexual aid utilization in a separate study on the effect of SBRT. They found:

  • 37% were already using sexual aids at baseline
  • 51% were using sexual aids at 2 years
  • 55% were using sexual aids at 5 years
  • 89% of users say they were helped by them at baseline, 2 years and 5 years
  • 86% used PDE5 inhibitors only (i.e., Viagra, Cialis, Levitra or Stendra)
  • 14% combined a PDE5 inhibitor with other sexual aids (e.g., Trimix, MUSE, or a vacuum pump)

Erectile function is well-preserved following SBRT, and seems to be as good or better than after IMRT, moderately hypofractionated IMRT, or LDR brachytherapy. Based on reports of a protective effect of a PDE5 inhibitor, patients should discuss their use with their radiation oncologist starting 3 days before radiation and continuing for 6 months after. High levels of exercise and frequent masturbation may have protective effects as well.

With thanks to Daniel Spratt and Robert Dess for allowing me to see the full texts of their studies

Monday, October 3, 2016

Urinary and sexual healing improved by waiting to start salvage radiation

Salvage radiation adds to the side effects of surgery and may halt the progress made towards healing. Healing takes time. On the other hand, we have learned that adjuvant or early salvage radiation has better oncological outcomes than waiting, the earlier the better (see this link).  Two new studies help us better understand the trade-offs.

Zaffuto et al. examined the records of 2,190 patients who had been treated with a prostatectomy. Their urinary and sexual outcomes were evaluated based on whether they received:
  1. no radiation
  2. adjuvant radiation (prior to evidence of recurrence, usually administered 4-6 months following prostatectomy), or
  3. salvage prostatectomy (after PSA reached 0.2 ng/ml)

They also looked at outcomes based on when they were treated with radiation:
  1. Less than a year after surgery, or
  2. A year or more after surgery

With median follow-up of 48 months, the 3-year outcomes were as follows.

Erectile function recovery rates were:
  • 35.0% among those who received no radiation
  • 29.0% among those who waited to receive salvage radiation
  • 11.6% among those who had adjuvant radiation
  • 34.7% among those who waited for a year or more before initiating salvage radiation
  • 11.7% among those who had radiation within a year

Urinary continence recovery rates were:
  • 70.7% among those who received no radiation
  • 59.0% among those who waited to receive salvage radiation
  • 42.2% among those who had adjuvant radiation
  • 62.7% among those who waited for a year or more before initiating salvage radiation
  • 43.5% among those who had radiation within a year

Van Stam et al. looked at their database of 241 patients who were treated with salvage radiation and 1005 patients who only received a prostatectomy but no radiation afterwards. All patients were last treated between 2004 and 2015, and had up to 2 years of follow-up afterwards.

After adjusting for patient characteristics, they found that:
  • Salvage radiation patients had significantly worse recovery of urinary, bowel, and erectile function.
  • Patients who waited more than 7 months before receiving salvage radiation had better sexual satisfaction scores and better urinary function recovery.

So what is one to do: treat earlier for better odds of cancer control, or treat later for better urinary and sexual function recovery? We have seen that adjuvant radiation is rarely likely to be necessary, and that early salvage radiation can probably be just as effective. But what if PSA is already high and rising rapidly? One solution might be to use hormone therapy to halt the cancer progression while tissues heal. That may help with urinary function, but is apt to interfere with recovery of sexual function. This remains a difficult decision, which is why discussions with an experienced radiation oncologist should begin at the earliest detectable PSA (over 0.03 ng/ml) on an ultrasensitive test. Most of all, the patient must do the self-analysis to understand which trade-offs he is willing to make.

Sexual function was no worse when fewer external beam radiation treatments were used

The HYPRO trial was designed to detect whether hypofractionation (fewer radiation treatments) was inferior to conventional fractionation. Their previous report looked at outcomes on late-term urinary and rectal function. Here, they report on sexual function outcomes.

To briefly recap, 820 intermediate/high risk patients were randomly assigned to one of two external beam radiation treatment protocols:
  • Conventional fractionation: 78 Gy in 39 treatments
  • Hypofractionation: 64.6 Gy in 19 treatments
  • 39% had adjuvant hormone therapy lasting up to 6 months

It should also be noted that men were 71 years of age at the time of treatment.

After median follow-up of 37 months:
  • Among those with partial or full erectile function at baseline, erectile dysfunction occurred in 34.4% among those who had hypofractionation and 39.3% among those who had conventional fractionation. The difference was not statistically significant.
  • Orgasmic function among those who did not have hormone therapy was higher for the hypofractionation group. The difference was statistically significant.
  • Overall, sexual function scores declined after treatment, but there was no difference between two treatments.

Two other randomized clinical trials also reported no difference in sexual function. Both the Fox Chase trial (see this link) and the M.D. Anderson trial (see this link) found hypofractionation made no difference in sexual outcomes. This should give some comfort to patients and radiation oncologists considering hypofractionation.