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Regret Over Shorter Penis After Prostate Cancer Treatment, Study Finds

Patients facing treatment for prostate cancer expect to be warned of certain dismal side effects: erectile dysfunction and incontinence, for instance. But a new study suggests men should be warned of another possible complication: a shorter penis.

The new report found that a small number of men enrolled in a prostate cancer study complained to their doctors that their penises seemed shorter following treatment (though no actual measurements were taken). Some of the men reported that even this perception of a shortened penis interfered with their intimate, emotional relationships and caused them to regret the type of treatment they chose.

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, with about 241,740 new cases diagnosed last year, according to the American Cancer Society. Obviously prostate cancer can be serious: it’s the second leading cause of cancer death (behind lung cancer) in American men.

But most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will live — and live with the short- and long-term implications of the type of treatment they choose to undergo. While the problems of erectile dysfunction and incontinence are widely known as possible side effects, few studies have been done on treatment-related penile shortening. But doctors say it can and does happen — though it’s rarely discussed with patients.

In the current study, which was based on surveys completed by physicians treating 948 men with recurrent cancer, a total of 25 patients (2.63%) complained of a shorter penis. Complaints were most common in men who underwent surgery to have their prostate removed (19 of 510 men) and those treated with male hormone-blocking drugs combined with radiation therapy (6 of 225 men), researchers report. None of the men on radiation therapy alone complained of this particular problem.

These numbers are clearly small; but researchers say the phenomenon, due to its intimate nature, is likely underreported. The takeaway from this study, they say, is that the possibility of a slightly shorter penis after treatment should be made clear to patients as they consider their therapeutic options; a frank discussion upfront might minimize later regret. “Physicians should discuss the possibility of this rarely mentioned side effect with their patients to help them make more informed treatment choices,” the study, published in the medical journal Urology, concludes.

From the January issue of the journal Urology

From the January issue of the journal Urology

Lead author Paul L. Nguyen, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in Boston, said the novelty of the work is that it shows how even the perception of a shorter penis can profoundly impact a man’s quality of life and lead to regret. “Some people might think this is frivolous — who cares about a slightly shortened penis — but it really does affect people’s lives,” he said in an interview. “If guys [in the study] had this bad result they were much more likely to regret the path they chose. This is important to talk about up front when people are making their decisions.” Continue reading

Is The Deep Desire To Be Thin Genetic?

The take-home message from a new study of twins conducted by Michigan State University researchers is this: genetics may play a role in making some women vulnerable to the extraordinary cultural pressure to be thin.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and published in International Journal of Eating Disorders found that “identical twins have closer levels of thin idealization than fraternal twins, which suggests a significant role for genetics.”


From the MSU news release:

From size-zero models to airbrushed film stars, thinness is portrayed as equaling beauty across Western culture, and it’s an ideal often cited as a cause of eating disorder symptoms in young women.

The researchers focused on the potential psychological impact of women buying into this perceived ideal of thinness, which they call thin-ideal internalization. Changes in self-perception and behavior, caused by this idealization, can lead to body dissatisfaction, a preoccupation with weight and other symptoms of eating disorders.

“We’re all bombarded daily with messages extoling the virtues of being thin, yet intriguingly only some women develop what we term thin-ideal internalization,” said Jessica Suisman, lead author on the study and a researcher in MSU’s Department of Psychology. “This suggests that genetic factors may make some women more susceptible to this pressure than others.”

To explore the role of genetic factors in whether women “buy in” to the pressure to be thin, the idealization of thinness was studied in sets of twins. More than 300 female twins from the MSU Twin Registry, ages 12-22, took part in the study. Suisman and colleagues measured how much participants wanted to look like people from movies, TV and magazines. Once the levels of thin idealization were assessed, identical twins who share 100 percent of their genes were compared with fraternal twins who share 50 percent.

The results show that identical twins have closer levels of thin idealization than fraternal twins, which suggests a significant role for genetics. Further analysis shows that the heritability of thin idealization is 43 percent, meaning that almost half of the reason women differ in their idealization of thinness can be explained by differences in their genetic makeup. Continue reading

Eating Disorders Afflict Older Women Too, Study Finds

(Alaina Abplanalp Photography/flickr)

Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and compulsive dieting are popularly perceived as afflicting mostly teenagers and young women. Just watch “Girls.” Or recall all those eating disorder memoirs with names like “Wasted” “Stick Figure” and “Home Sick,” the one by Ralph Lauren’s niece, Jenny).

Well, it turns out that screwed up behavior around food and body image persists in women over 50 as well, according to new research out of the University North Carolina. Surprise.

Here’s part of the news release:

…a new study reveals that age is no barrier to disordered eating. In women aged 50 and over, 3.5% report binge eating, nearly 8% report purging, and more than 70% are trying to lose weight. The study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders revealed that 62% of women claimed that their weight or shape negatively impacted on their life. Continue reading

The Art Of Surviving Anorexia

Meltdown, Puzzled, Missing Piece by Judith Shaw

By Karen Weintraub
Guest Contributor

Judith Shaw never meant to create art.

She was just annoyed at a “really pedantic” assignment in her recovery program, to make a timeline of her life with anorexia. She was in her 50s, had raised a family and had a career – unlike the other participants, who were adolescents or 20-somethings. And she couldn’t write a history of key events in her eating disorder, because that would mean distinguishing her anorexia from herself.

Instead, she made a life-sized portrait. And somehow a switch flipped in her brain. Making art could allow her to express what she had long kept deep inside.

That self-portrait was the first of many artworks Shaw would make as she came to terms with giving up her anorexia and claiming a new life.

Next Thursday, Shaw’s art goes on exhibit at Harvard, in the Student Organization Center at Hilles (SOCH) Penthouse level, 59 Shephard Street, in Cambridge. The exhibit is open to the public that first night from 8-10 p.m., and then to the Harvard community through March 10. Continue reading

Essay: How Cancer Changed Me In Unimaginable Ways

Marie Colantoni Pechet with her husband, sons and Tigger.

By Marie Colantoni Pechet
Guest Blogger

Normally I don’t notice my body. I’ve always been relatively thin and people tell me that I appear to be fit even when I know that I’m not. Growing up, I wore glasses, was physically awkward, and didn’t feel particularly attractive, so I studied diligently and lived more in my head than my body. Sure, I love fun clothes, but more for how they make me feel than how I look in them. On top of all this, I live in Cambridge, Mass. where you can pair a Chanel dress with Birkenstocks and no one would look twice.

But the other day after a shower, I caught myself in the mirror. Suddenly noticing the scars from all my surgeries, the colostomy bag on my abdomen and the power port embedded in my chest, it felt like I was looking at someone familiar but not me. I was jolted into accepting that this is really me, now.

The noises from the kids getting ready for school snapped me back to starting my day, so I got dressed and moved on.

Later, I reflected on how much my life has changed since I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer four years ago. Sure, there were the physical changes, including my shorter hairstyle. Nothing says “chemo patient” like a super-short hairstyle.

After each physical change occurred, it was upsetting, and then I would get used to it. I got used to the way my once-flat abdomen now pooches. I got used to dealing with the colostomy bag. I got used to the power port. I even love the super-short hair. Continue reading