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Prostate treatment side effect no one talks about

When oncologists run through the list of possible side effects of surgery and other treatments for prostate cancer, rarely mentioned is one that leaves some men to regret their treatment choice: shrinkage.

Yet a significant percentage of men who undergo surgery to remove their prostate gland or hormone therapy combined with radiation report that they experience a decrease in their penis size after treatment, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers found in a new study. Radiation treatments alone did not lead to a reduction in penis size, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Urology.

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The researchers examined surveys from 948 men recently treated for prostate cancer and found that nearly 3 percent complained of a reduced penis size. But study coauthor Dr. Paul Nguyen, a radiation oncologist at Dana-Farber, called this a significant underestimate because men often feel uncomfortable discussing this side effect. Men who reported shrinkage were more than three times as likely to regret their treatment than those who had no complaints.

In previous studies where researchers actually measured penis size after surgery, the average loss in size was about 1 centimeter. “It’s definitely something I talk to my patients about,” Nguyen said, “but the onus may be on patients to raise the issue if their doctor fails to bring it up.”

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