Although there have been significant advancements in the treatment of prostate cancer with medications, radiation, surgery and/or brachytherapy, there continue to be concerns about posttreatment side effects. Although the advancements in these treatments have aimed to limit associated adverse events, patients still frequently develop urologic (impotence, urinary incontinence) and gastrointestinal (tenesmus, hematochezia) symptoms.1,2 These treatment-related adverse events can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life (QoL).3 In addition to these stressors, patients may also be concerned about potential cancer recurrence.
QoL can be challenging to objectively measure, and even when it can be accurately measured, it can be even more challenging to develop new modalities targeting improvements in these patient QoL factors. Therefore, a recent prostate cancer study conducted by Skolarus and colleagues aimed to evaluate whether an automated telephone system that identified specific posttreatment symptoms coupled with a subsequent targeted newsletter could help reduce symptom burden.2
The study was a randomized, controlled trial that enrolled a total of 556 men aged between 40 and 80 years old with prostate cancer who reported persistent symptoms more than 1 year after treatment. The authors named their intervention the “Building Your New Normal” initiative, which used automated telephone technology to deliver tailored newsletters to patients regarding the self-management of their specific prostate cancer-related symptoms.
The intervention group would receive an automated telephone call and their symptoms would be assessed using the EPIC system. In addition, they were given the opportunity to choose a particular symptom domain that would generate a newsletter tailored to their specific symptoms.
This intervention group was compared with a control group that only received a single nonspecific newsletter. The authors hypothesized that the intervention group would have less symptom burden as measured by the Expanded Prostate Cancer Index Composite-26 (EPIC) at both 5 months (primary end point) and 12 months (secondary end point) poststudy enrollment for each of the 4 symptom “domains”: sexual, bowel, urinary, and general. Each of the 4 domains was graded using a scale from 0 to 100, for which a score greater than 70 was considered clinically meaningful. A higher score indicated less symptom burden.