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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identifying the needs of penile cancer sufferers: A systematic review of the quality of life, psychosexual and psychosocial literature in penile cancer

Satish B Maddineni1, Maurice M Lau1 and Vijay K Sangar123*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Urology, The Christie Hospital, Manchester, UK

2 Department of Urology, University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester, UK

3 Division of Cancer Studies & Imaging, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

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BMC Urology 2009, 9:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2490-9-8

Published: 8 August 2009

Abstract

Background

Penile cancer is an uncommon malignancy with an incidence of 1 per 100,000. Conservative and radical treatments can be disfiguring and may have an impact on sexual function, quality of life (QOL), social interactions, self-image and self-esteem. Knowledge of how this disease affects patients is paramount to developing a global, multi-disciplinary approach to treatment.

Methods

A Medline/PubMed literature search was conducted using the terms "sexual function penis cancer"; "quality of life penis cancer" and "psychological effects penis cancer" from 1985 to 2008. Articles containing quantitative data on QOL, sexual function or psychological well-being were included.

Results

128 patients from 6 studies were included. 5 studies contained retrospective data whilst 1 study collected prospective data on erectile function. In the 6 studies 13 different quantitative tools were used to assess psychological well-being, QOL and sexual function. The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) showed impaired well-being in up to 40% in 2 studies. Patients undergoing more mutilating treatments were more likely to have impaired well-being. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score (HADS) demonstrated pathological anxiety up to 31% in 2 studies. 1 study used the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of psychiatric illness (DSM III-R) with 53% exhibiting mental illness, 25% avoidance behaviour and 40% impaired well-being. 12/30 suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. The IIEF-15 was the commonest tool used to assess sexual function. The results varied from 36% in 1 study with no sexual function to 67% in another reporting reduced sexual satisfaction to 78% in another reporting high confidence with erections.

Conclusion

The treatment of penile cancer results in negative effects on well-being in up to 40% with psychiatric symptoms in approximately 50%. Up to two-thirds of patients report a reduction in sexual function. This study demonstrates that penile cancer sufferers can exhibit significant psychological dysfunction, yet no standardised tools or interventional pathways are available. Therefore, there is a need to identify and assess adequate tools to measure psychological and sexual dysfunction in this group of patients.