BACKGROUND: This article reports on patient-reported sexual dysfunction and micturition symptoms following a randomized trial of laparoscopic and open surgery for rectal cancer. METHODS: Patients in the COLOR II randomized trial, comparing laparoscopic and open surgery for rectal cancer, completed the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) QLQ-CR38 questionnaire before surgery, and after 4 weeks, 6, 12 and 24 months. Adjusted mean differences on a 100-point scale were calculated using changes from baseline value at the various time points in the domains of sexual functioning, sexual enjoyment, male and female sexual problems, and micturition symptoms. RESULTS: Of 617 randomized patients, 385 completed this phase of the trial. Their mean age was 67·1 years. Surgery caused an anticipated reduction in genitourinary function after 4 weeks, with no significant differences between laparoscopic and open approaches. An improvement in sexual dysfunction was seen in the first year, but some male sexual problems persisted. Before operation 64·5 per cent of men in the laparoscopic group and 55·6 per cent in the open group reported some degree of erectile dysfunction. This increased to 81·1 and 80·5 per cent respectively 4 weeks after surgery, and 76·3 versus 75·5 per cent at 12 months, with no significant differences between groups. Micturition symptoms were less affected than sexual function and gradually improved to preoperative levels by 6 months. Adjusting for confounders, including radiotherapy, did not change these results. CONCLUSION: Sexual dysfunction is common in patients with rectal cancer, and treatment (including surgery) increases the proportion of patients affected. A laparoscopic approach does not change this. REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT0029779 (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov).
British Journal of Surgery, 2014, Vol 101, Issue 10, p. 1272-9