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New Study Finds That Prostate Cancer Treatment May Have Detrimental Effects On Patient Cognition

Aug 8, 2008
A new study published in the September 2008 issue of CANCER from the American Cancer Society, has determined that as many as 69% of men receiving hormone deprivation therapy, a widely used treatment for patients with advanced prostate cancer, may experience detrimental effects to their cognitive abilities. According to Dr. Christian Nelson, there is strong evidence that hormone deprivation therapy is linked to "subtle but significant cognitive decline in men with prostate cancer".

The study, consisting of a literature review of cases of human patients as well as animals, was headed by Dr. Nelson, a psychologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and concluded that androgen depletion therapy, whereby patients are chemically castrated in order to deprive cancer cells of hormones (testosterone) which drives their growth, may cause a decline in cognitive function of patients receiving the treatment.

Androgen depletion therapy has been used for a number of years as a preferred method of treatment of advanced-stage prostate cancer patients. In more recent years, the treatment has also increasingly been used for men who are in earlier stages of the cancer, which is one reason that the effects of the treatment are of concern.

Most men undergoing androgen depletion as a prostate cancer treatment are placed on the treatment for the extent of their lives. As a result, many experience effects of the therapy including fatigue, hot flashes, lack of libido, osteoporosis, hot flashes, mood swings and erectile dysfunction. All but the last of those symptoms are much the same as those experienced by women in the menopausal life stage.

The study found that testosterone may effect cognition in the brain in several ways, one of which is the stimulation of neuron connections. The study indicated that from nearly one-half to three-fourths of men treated with androgen deprivation therapy showed declines most often in processes of higher capacity, such as engaging in concurrent or multi-tasks, and with processes dependent upon spacial abilities. Problems with concentration and memory loss seemed evident.

It is apparent from the results of this study that additional, more in-depth studies of androgen deprivation therapy and its relationship to cognition need to be conducted to better understand the long-term effects of this particular prostate cancer treatment on the men receiving it. However, it is thought that discontinuing prostate cancer treatment based on the possibility of some cognitive loss should not be a consideration because of the importance of treating the disease.
About the Author
James Culp is a prostate cancer survivor and runs ProstAide.org, a blog that keeps track of all the latest options for prostate cancer treatment that are available.
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