A common side effect in men after they undergo treatment for prostate cancer is, incontinence. Doctors from the University of Nijmegen, Netherlands, in collaboration with researchers from a Dutch insurance company, have used health insurance data to reveal the extent of post-operative incontinence and the costs of dealing with it.
The economic costs facing men after surgery on an average between 210 per year to 283 in the first year. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with around 360,000 new cases every year in Europe - making it about as common as breast cancer is in women.
Often the cancer can be removed by surgery, which takes out the whole prostate. But there are very common side effects, notable erectile dysfunction (impotence) and urinary incontinence. This is because the nerves, which surround the prostate, are often damaged during the operation, and these nerves control the ability to have an erection and to control incontinence.
Data from the Achmea Health Insurance Database was used to review 2,834 men who had been treated for prostate cancer. They were able to correlate the surgical procedure with post-operative incontinence, and also with the resultant insurance costs, which the men claimed for incontinence material (incontinence pads/diapers).
The researchers found that on average each incontinent man spent 210 in absorbent pads, every year, with a range of 112 to 283. In the second year, the mean cost of continuing incontinence remained high, at 219 per person.
They also found that the percentage of men suffering from incontinence in the first year after a urology procedure or follow-up varied from 8% of those undergoing conservative treatment ('watchful waiting/active surveillance') to 80% for those undergoing laproscopic surgery (removal of the prostate via keyhole surgery). The overall mean incontinence rate was 22.6%. In the second year after treatment, incontinence still persisted in 40% of those who had undergone a laproscopic prostatectomy.