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M. D. Anderson Study Promotes Quality of Life for Prostate Cancer Survivors

M. D. Anderson Study Promotes Quality of Life for Prostate Cancer Survivors
M. D. Anderson News Release 09/13/01

Charles Smith and his wife got together at a Clear Lake marina with a group of people he now describes as "everlasting friends," fellow prostate cancer survivors he met while participating in a research study at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"You get with the guys, and you can't wait to see them the next time," says Smith, a 27-year prostate cancer survivor who was diagnosed while in his 40s.

Smith and his friends recently participated in a quality-of-life study for prostate cancer survivors known as "Active for Life."  During weekly meetings over six months, Smith says he and the other study participants forged friendships so strong that the men and their spouses continue to get together for regular outings.

In the study, investigators are examining ways to improve quality of life for prostate patients on androgen-ablation therapy through support groups or increased physical activity, says Dr. Ellen R. Gritz, principal investigator and chair of the Department of Behavioral Science.  The American Cancer Society is funding the three-year $685,000 study, one of only two awarded nationwide on the topic of quality of life in prostate cancer patients.

Androgen-ablation therapy is a type of hormone therapy used for men with prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer survivors on hormone therapy may experience fatigue, muscle weakness, weight gain or change in weight distribution and loss of bone mass, according to researchers.

"We want to determine whether behavioral changes can lead to better symptom management and an overall feeling of well-being in prostate cancer patients on androgen-ablation therapy," Dr. Gritz says.

During the study, participants complete several questionnaires to assess quality of life, including levels of depression, anxiety and physical functioning.

"This study can provide valuable information to help us develop innovative programs designed specifically to assist androgen-ablation survivors, who often live many years following a prostate cancer diagnosis," Dr. Gritz says.  "We are targeting quality of life issues, including feelings of mental and physical well-being in these patients," Dr. Gritz says.
A six-month program, the study includes behavioral skills training-learning to deal with issues related to their disease. The support group sessions, which spouses are encouraged to attend, include discussion of a number of issues prostate cancer patients face, including effects of therapy and changes in sexuality associated with aging.  Some participants are asked to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.

"Active For Life was a great opportunity for us to open up about how we feel," Smith says.  "We spoke of things in that room that a lot of us had never told anyone else.  Most people get a negative attitude when they begin talking about cancer, but Active For Life seems to bring out the lighter side of life."

To be eligible for the study, men must be receiving hormone injections or had surgery to remove the testicles; be fluent in the English language; and receive approval from their physician to participate.  Participants may earn a total of $150 for completing three questionnaires and attending sessions. 

M. D. Anderson is providing free parking for study-related visits.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 198,100 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during 2001, and 31,500 men will die of the disease.

For more information or to enroll in the study, call 1-866-309-5843.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center