Quality of life after radical prostatectomy or watchful waiting

Steineck G, Helgesen F, Adolfsson J, Dickman PW, Johansson J-E, Norlén BJ, Holmberg L

N Engl J Med. 2002



We evaluated symptoms and self-assessments of quality of life in men with localized prostate cancer who participated in a randomized comparison between radical prostatectomy and watchful waiting.


Between 1989 and 1999, a group of Swedish urologists randomly assigned men with localized prostate cancer to radical prostatectomy or watchful waiting. In this follow-up study, we obtained information from 326 of 376 eligible men (87 percent) concerning certain symptoms, symptom-induced distress, well-being, and the subjective assessment of quality of life by means of a mailed questionnaire.


Erectile dysfunction (80 percent vs. 45 percent) and urinary leakage (49 percent vs. 21 percent) were more common after radical prostatectomy, whereas urinary obstruction (e.g., 28 percent vs. 44 percent for weak urinary stream) was less common. Bowel function, the prevalence of anxiety, the prevalence of depression, well-being, and the subjective quality of life were similar in the two groups.


The assignment of patients to watchful waiting or radical prostatectomy entails different risks of erectile dysfunction, urinary leakage, and urinary obstruction, but on average, the choice has little if any influence on well-being or the subjective quality of life after a mean follow-up of four years.