Men with high neuroticism are significantly more likely to suffer from adverse events, such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence, which may put their recovery from prostate cancer surgery at risk.
According to new research, this means doctors may need to consider testing for personality types to try to ensure that patients being treated for prostate cancer receive the best care.
Men who score high on neuroticism are more likely to be moody and experience feelings such as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood and loneliness.
The researchers surveyed 982 men who had undergone prostate surgery — radical prostatectomy — at the University Hospital in Oslo, Norway. Of those, 761 reported on their recovery from the surgery while also self-reporting on neuroticism with a standard questionnaire.
According to the findings, 22 percent of the men scored high for neuroticism, which is in line with the prevalence of high-neurotic personality in national surveys in Norway and other countries, such as the Netherlands. These men showed significantly worse scores when surveyed on their recovery from radical prostatectomy,
“Around a fifth of the men scored highly for neuroticism, which is pretty much what would be expected,” said lead researcher Dr. Karol Axcrona from Akershus University Hospital in Norway. “These men showed significantly more adverse effects after prostate cancer surgery.”
“We use a standard questionnaire to measure the Quality of Life in men after prostate cancer surgery, and on average the highly neurotic patients scored around 20 percent worse than the non-neurotic patients on a variety of side effects, including erectile dysfunction, urinary leakage, and bowel problems. This mirrors work which has shown the effect of personality on disease recovery in general, but we still need to see this work replicated in other studies.”
Until now differences in outcomes from prostate cancer surgery had been thought to be largely due to differences in surgical technique and the circumstances of the prostate cancer, according to the researchers. This study, they say, shows that personality may also be a contributory factor to surgical outcomes.
“Neuroticism is not an illness, but a basic personality trait, like extraversion or openness,” Axcrona said. “We all have some degree of neuroticism. What we found was that those patients who show a greater tendency towards neuroticism have worse outcomes three years after prostate cancer surgery.
“This is a real effect, and doctors need to take account of this, in the same way that we would take physical factors into account before and after cancer treatment,” he said.
“This means we may need better advance personality testing for identification and counseling, and perhaps a more specialized follow-up of those men who might be at risk of poorer outcomes. We believe the increased risk of adverse events is likely to impede the overall patient recovery, although the study was not designed to measure that.”
The study was presented at the 34th European Association of Urology conference in Barcelona.
Source: European Association of Urology