M.D.s downplay cancer treatment side effects

The medical industry has long tried to convince the public of the effectiveness of radical therapies such as surgery and radiation for various cancers. It tends to boast about the rare successes and dismiss the more common failures.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, it also downplays reports of negative side effects suffered by patients who survive treatment for prostate cancer.

"Postsurgical complication rates from patient questionnaires are greater than have been reported in other treatment series," stated Dr. James Talcott of Massachusetts General Hospital. He headed the research team which studied 279 men with prostate cancer.

Of the total, 135 underwent radiotherapy, and 125 underwent radical prostatectomy. Three and 12 months later, they were asked about complications from the treatments.

The researchers found that patients had "high rates of irritative bowel and bladder symptoms, urinary incontinence, and erectile dysfunction in the first year after either radical prostatectomy or radical external-beam radiotherapy."

In almost all categories, the side effects -- which ranged from diarrhea, rectal urgency and daytime urinary frequency, and erectile problems -- were greater than has been previously disclosed.

While part of the discrepancy was blamed on patients who might have chosen not to report their discomfort after treatment, the researchers said it might also be due to doctors who "may subconsciously discount patient reports of symptoms."

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Oncology, January 1998.
The Chiropractic Journal.

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