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Posted: August 05, 2008

Men's Thinking Tangled by Common Prostate Cancer Treatment

Men who undergo a common form of prostate cancer treatment often experience problems thinking, especially when it involves recall and concentration, according to a newly published study.

The treatment is called hormone deprivation therapy, also known as androgen depletion therapy, and it has long been a staple in effectively treating prostate cancer because hormones such as testosterone drive the growth of prostate cancer cells. While the therapy traditionally has been used in more advanced cancer cases, it is increasingly being used for men in the earlier stages of prostate cancer. Once started, this therapy usually is a life-long treatment.

According to a report in the journal Cancer, researchers reviewed existing studies and found that testosterone actually may impact thinking, and that androgen depletion therapy in prostate cancer patients causes nearly half (47%) to more than two-thirds (69%) of men to decline in at least one cognitive area, typically in areas such as the ability to multi-task, which requires concentration and recall.

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The findings indicate that larger, more thorough studies that include brain imaging techniques are needed to better understand the nature and extent of the cognitive effects of androgen depletion.

"Androgen depletion therapy can potentially have some subtle, adverse cognitive effects," said lead researcher Christian J. Nelson, lead researcher and staff member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

"These men might not be thinking as quickly as they used to," Nelson said. "They may find it more difficult to hold several pieces of information in their mind at one time."

Still, as troubling as the cognitive effects might seem, men should not seek to discontinue their therapy, Nelson said. "Treating the disease is much more important than these subtle cognitive effects," he said.

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