A cancer diagnosis can be an emotional storm, encompassing fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. The impact of prostate cancer is not limited to emotions; it also presents physical and financial challenges. Treatment options can affect physical capabilities and alter one’s appearance, adding another layer of complexity. It is important to remember you are not alone and many people live with prostate cancer, and a range of support resources are available in Australia. The support from family and friends play a significant role in shaping an individual’s cancer journey. Open communication about their actions and your needs can pave the way for invaluable support.
In this upcoming article, we aim to explore the ways you can live with prostate cancer, whilst also offering valuable coping strategies and support for you and your loved ones.
Why are coping strategies and support important for those living with prostate cancer
Living with prostate cancer can pose different challenges. That’s why coping strategies are vital when facing a prostate cancer diagnosis, as the journey can present many multifaceted challenges.
Patients with prostate cancer have access to a range of different healthcare providers and support. These could include:
- Your doctor and oncology nurses who can provide an overview of your care and information to ease any anxiety.
- A physiotherapist to assist with the physical effects of prostate cancer.
- A psychologist or psychiatrist is available to patients to support their mental health and the mental health of those affected.
- A nutritionist to order advice regarding food matters.
- There are also volunteer organisations which can offer financial advice and complementary therapies including a social worker to help you and your family adjust and manage daily tasks.
Engage with your healthcare team ensuring that any concerns or questions you may have about your treatment are voiced. Your doctor can give suggestions for support groups where you can talk with others who have prostate cancer or a similar experience of cancer and give you valuable advice and support.
Understanding Prostate Cancer:
Understanding what prostate cancer is, the risks as well as its causes and treatment can help you find the right support or coping strategy to manage your experience. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in males, it arises when abnormal cells within the prostate gland undergo uncontrolled growth rate. The prostate gland is situated in front of the rectum and rests below the bladder. In cases where the prostate gland becomes cancerous and inflamed, it obstructs the bladder or urethra, leading to challenges in urination and complication in sexual function.
In Australia, prostate cancer stands as the most prevalent form of cancer among men, excluding skin cancer. Astonishingly, approximately 18,100 new cases are reported each year with alarming statistics revealing 1 in 10 men will face a prostate cancer diagnosis before reaching the age 75. Various factors contribute to the likelihood of developing the disease, such as advancing age, with over 90% of prostate cancer patients being 55 years or older. Additionally, individuals with a family history of prostate cancer or the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are at an increased risk.
Determining the exact impact of risk factor on prostate cancer is hard, as some without any risks develop the disease while others within the risk category remain unaffected.
Common prostate cancer treatment options and potential side effects
Prostate cancer presents various treatment options, which differ based on the stage of cancer. Provided below are the most common treatment options;
A surgical procedure known as radical prostatectomy is performed to remove the prostate and its surrounding tissue. This can be done with either keyhole surgery or open surgery techniques.
There are two primary methods: retropubic prostatectomy and perineal prostatectomy. In the retropubic prostatectomy method, the prostate gland and necessary lymph nodes are removed via an incision in the stomach/abdomen. For a perineal prostatectomy, the prostate is removed via an incision made between the anus and the scrotum.
A catheter is inserted into the penis post-surgery to temporarily assist with draining the bladder during the healing process and is removed within 1 – 2 weeks.
Side effects of surgery can be both long term and other will improve over time, they include erectile dysfunction or impotence, incontinence, orgasms can be dry due to removal of the gland which produce semen, orgasms can be less intense, shortening of the penis, infertility and in some cases lymphoedema.
An external customised radiotherapy treatment using ionising radiation is used to stop or slow down the growth of the cancerous cells. A radiation plan designed specifically to the patient is created, determining the precise amount of radiation to administer, the exact location to target, and how often the treatment will be given.
Radiotherapy possesses less possible side effects compared to other forms of treatment. Many individuals commonly encounter a slight increase in the need to urinate or a boost in their bowel movements during treatment. These issues typically resolve themselves within the weeks of completing the treatment.
Nevertheless, in certain instances, these effects can persist in the long run, leading to complications such as infertility and erectile dysfunction.
This form of treatment is internal radiation therapy where tiny radioactive seeds are delicately inserted within the prostate. Some of these seeds emit low doses of radiation and remain permanently in place, while others are temporarily secured using catheters to deliver higher doses of radiation for a shorter duration.
Hormone therapy is used to reduce androgens hormone levels, also known as testosterone, in the body which the cancer uses to grow. This treatment method can be offered before, during and after radiotherapy, its duration depends on the cancer staging and can be long term or short term. Prostate cancer relies on these hormones to grow so reducing the levels is key. Hormone therapy offers various methods of administration including tablets, injections or an implantation. The drugs can be used to:
- Stop androgen production within the body.
- Stop the production of testosterone within the testicles.
- Prevent the cancerous cells from receiving the hormones.
In some cases, surgical removal of testicles where androgens are produced is required to manage the hormone levels in the body.
Hormone therapy may bring about various side effects, such as reduced or loss libido, erectile dysfunction, breast tissue swelling, hot flushes, fatigue, mood swings or depression, and osteoporosis.
Coping with the emotional impact of prostate cancer
Depending on where someone is in their treatment journey, their emotions can be impacted differently. For instance, receiving an initial diagnosis can leave a person feeling shocked and upset, while waiting for test results can trigger anxiety. The intensity of these emotions can vary based on the specific circumstances. These emotional side effects can manifest in physical symptoms such as nausea, trouble sleeping, or loss of appetite.
For some, the diagnosis can be shocking, especially when there were no prior symptoms or indications of any issues. Anger or a sense of unfairness may also arise, as you question why this has happened to you. It is natural to feel worried also as this is an emotional period in a person’s life particularly if you’ve had people close to you affected by cancer. It is normal to experience a range of emotions and there’s no right or wrong way to feel whilst you process and navigate your cancer journey.
Prostate cancer often brings about feelings of anxiety, stress and depression for numerous individuals. However, there are several effective methods to manage these emotions.
- One approach is to confide in a trusted friend or family member and discuss the challenges you are facing.
- Another beneficial step is to open up to your healthcare team about your struggles, as they can connect you with other healthcare professionals, such as psychologists, who can offer additional support.
- Proactively seeking out additional information surrounding your diagnosis can elevate distress and prepare you for the future.
- Support groups offer invaluable assistance during your journey, providing solace and understanding. These groups unite men, their partners, and families who have encountered the impact of prostate cancer. Whether you are grappling with a recent diagnosis or have already undergone treatment, these support networks offer unwavering companionship. Regular meetups foster an environment where individuals can support one another, share stories, and gain knowledge about the disease and effective management techniques. Within the support group, members are able to express their emotions freely, helping to diminish feelings of isolation that often come with personal thoughts.
- A psychologist or psychiatrist can give you expert advice and teach you effective methods to help you to understand and manage the range of emotions or thoughts you have in a private setting.
Additionally, focusing on your overall well-being is essential. Dedicate time to meditate, go for a massage or engage in relaxation techniques to restore balance and harmony within yourself. Maintain regular exercise into your routine and ensure you have a nutritious diet, as it can greatly contribute to your overall health and happiness.
Coping with the physical challenges of prostate cancer treatment
The impact of prostate cancer is not only emotional, but it can also be physically and financially challenging. You may find prostate cancer will influence your physical capabilities as well as your appearance depending on your treatment. Some people experience financial strain as they navigate living with prostate cancer, however, many people live with prostate cancer and there are many support resources available in Australia.
Physical challenges can arise during and treatment of prostate cancer. For some individuals, achieving and maintaining an erection for sexual activities or intercourse becomes difficult. There are also those who experience challenges with bladder control after undergoing surgery or radiotherapy treatments. It is common for some to encounter a reduction in bladder capacity, difficulties in urination, bladder irritations, and in some cases, the need to rely on incontinence pads.
Following surgical procedures, certain patients may experience a reduction in penis length or the removal of testicles due to hormone therapy. As a result, individuals may encounter feelings of insecurity regarding their body image or even depression as they strive to adapt to their altered psychical appearance.
After undergoing hormones therapy or radiotherapy, a number of patients may experience a decline in sperm quality, leading to potential infertility. This adverse effect can persist for months following the treatment and, in certain cases, may become permanent. Therefore, it is essential to engage in a conversation with your healthcare team regarding available options prior to treatment, especially if you wish to have a family in the future.
To address urinary concerns, it is highly recommended to practise pelvic floor exercises prior to undergoing surgery. This proactive approach significantly decreases the chances of developing a weakened bladder. You must ensure that you’re consuming plenty of water as it not only prevents difficulties in urination but also helps dilute the urine, which minimises bladder irritation. It is also recommended to strict your caffeine and alcohol intake, as they can also provoke bladder irritation. If necessary, consult your healthcare team regarding the usage of continence aids such as absorbent pads, or pads for beds or chairs. In some cases, medication, special clamps, or even surgical interventions may be suggested as potential solutions.
Regular physical activity can combat the overwhelming fatigue individuals often experience whilst undergoing treatment. Consider taking short walks or engaging in light exercises to boost your energy levels. Regular physical activity is also strongly advised during hormone therapy as it counteracts against undesirable effects such as cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Additionally, exercise plays a crucial role in enhancing both bone and muscle mass whilst combating fatigue. Engaging in physical activity during hormone therapy has positive physiological outcomes, providing all round benefits.
Sustaining an active lifestyle and regularly engaging in exercise is key to maintaining fitness levels. Whether it involves shedding extra weight if necessary or gaining weight to maintain a healthy weight. Staying physically active and nourishing your body with proper nutrition is a powerful way to enhance your well-being prior to, during and after treatment of prostate cancer.
Maintaining a robust body during your cancer journey heavily relies on adopting a wholesome lifestyle that includes both physical activity and a nutritious diet. Incorporating food rich in fibre such as vegetables, fruits, and cereals into your meal can protect against cancer ensuring the body remains resilient throughout treatment.
Coping strategies for navigating personal relationships
In addition to expressing your emotions to your loved ones, opening up about your journey with prostate cancer can foster a stronger bond with them. It is common for some men to feel uncomfortable or unsure about discussing their condition, yet sharing your experiences, worries, and thoughts can enable others to offer the support that suits you best. This openness can contribute to maintaining a positive relationship throughout your cancer journey.
Having open conversations
Upon receiving news of your diagnosis, it’s not uncommon for those close to you to experience a similar range of emotions and to offer support to you, even if it means putting on a brave face. It is also important to recognise that some may struggle with finding the right words to say and may avoid the subject altogether. Letting others know how their actions affect you is important.
Prostate cancer has the potential to impact your sexual desire and performance. Engaging in open conversations with your partner can greatly enhance your relationship and sexual encounters. By doing so, you allow them to provide support in the way you need and prevent yourself from being isolated in your emotions. The support from family and friends will have a direct impact on the way you feel about your diagnosis and overall cancer journey.
Although it may be uncomfortable, the benefits of having necessary discussions are invaluable, you can strengthen your bond, prevent frustration and misunderstandings, and better cope with the changes.
Seeking out health professionals or counsellors
In order to maintain a strong bond with your partner or family, it is important to consider seeking the support of couples or family counselling if needed. By engaging with health professionals, you can openly discuss your emotions and worries, allowing you to better manage your thoughts and anxieties.
Moreover, mental health professionals can also provide assistance to your family members who may be facing difficulties in accepting your diagnosis or coping with the challenges associated with living with cancer. Counsellors can offer you effective coping strategies that will enhance your overall quality of life.
Support resources available to anyone with prostate cancer
Your healthcare team can provide comprehensive care, address all your needs and effectively manage any symptoms you may experience. Upon receiving a cancer diagnosis each person encounters varying levels of stress, and there are many professionals available to ensure patients receive the necessary support to alleviate the burden. This support includes emotional assistance, aid with travel to hospital appointments, financial advice, a dedicated social worker for the entire family, access to psychologists for both patients and their loved ones, and the expertise of an occupational therapist.
Support groups, online communities, and helplines
Connecting with others who have experienced a similar cancer journey can reduce the distress of a cancer diagnosis. Peer support groups offer a unique space where one can both offer and receive assistance, all within an atmosphere of shared empathy and respect.
Online communities allow individuals from remote and isolated areas to connect and support others going through a similar experience. These virtual communities had become a lifeline for those who lack access to a physical support group within their area. Males from all corners of Australia can now come together, share their experiences, and offer invaluable support to one another.
Australia has several different helplines to assist anyone affected by cancer whereby you can freely speak to and be supported, they include Lifeline, Mensline and Beyond Blue.
Joining a community whether it be a support group or speaking with someone who has had a similar experience can help individuals to process emotions, share stories and coping methods, and receive support in an environment of understanding and empathy. There is also additional knowledge and helpful tips to be gained from speaking with people who have either completed treatment or are currently on a different stage of cancer journey. Regular attendance can become an effective management tool for an individual living with prostate cancer.
Support for Caregivers
Prostate cancer can deeply impact not only the individuals diagnosed but also those close to them, who often step up to provide crucial support as caregivers and adapt to living with cancer. In this journey, caregivers play a vital role, sharing the burden and helping in various ways. They may actively participate in the patient’s care plan by gathering information about treatments and accompanying them to appointments.
A person’s caregiving responsibilities vary based on their specific needs, encompassing a range of activities that cater to their emotional and practical requirements. This can involve providing a compassionate ear, engaging in heartfelt conversations to address worries and emotions, as well as assisting with various daily household chores like washing, ironing, and meal preparation. Additionally, caregivers may also offer transportation to appointments, collect prescriptions, and ensure the overall well-being of the person as they may find this hard to do themselves during treatment.
Support resources available to caregivers
Some partners and families find it difficult to ask and accept help, fearing they might burden others who already have the stresses of daily life. There are numerous support networks and resources accessible to caregivers to aid them including respite and support groups.
Respite care provides an effective solution for managing stress, as it is crucial to allocate time away from caregiving duties in order to unwind and rejuvenate. Engaging in simple activities such as going out for a leisurely walk, reading a book or indulging in a personal hobby can work wonders. Replenishing your energy reserves is essential so caregivers can be in control and offer their best efforts. It is recommended to have daily moments of respite. Your healthcare team can offer care services specialising in respite.
Support groups offer caregivers a valuable space to connect and engage with fellow individuals who share similar experiences. These support groups welcome family and friends of those affected by prostate cancer and are designed specifically to provide carer information, carer support and counselling.
Many times, partners and families unintentionally overlook or disregard the importance of prioritising their own health and well-being. When they start to feel unwell, they tend to downplay their own health needs. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the significance of selfcare. Taking care of your own health by maintaining a well-balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, ensuring sufficient sleep, and consistently monitoring your overall well-being each day.
You can also reach out to your healthcare team; they have resources to offer supportive care specifically to you and your loved ones.
Maintaining your quality of life
Enhancing a person’s quality of life during prostate cancer treatment involves effectively managing the side effects to aid both the individual and their families. There are various support services, pain management options, and support groups available. This includes financial assistance which can alleviate the burden of monetary stress, while occupational therapy can increase an individual’s physical freedom, and psychologists whose crucial role maintains and improves mental health. These resources and support services fall under palliative care, which aims to help individuals lead a normal life and minimise any obstacles they may face, ultimately resulting in an improved quality of life.
The primary goal of palliative care is to empower patients, allowing them to experience the highest possible quality of life. By effectively managing and minimising any side effects, as well as providing support to patients and their families, this approach ensures the best quality of life. A range of professionals, including dieticians, physiotherapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and occupational therapists, collaborate to offer assistance of palliative care. These support services aid in managing various challenges such as fatigue, anxiety, pain, nausea, depression, and more, while also enhancing patient’s understanding of their treatment options. Addressing these needs not only supports recovery but also enhances symptoms and overall well-being.
Maintaining social connections, pursuing hobbies and interests
Incorporating hobbies and passions into your routine can be a powerful tool for redirecting your focus away from the overwhelming stress that cancer can bring. One way to do this is by continuing to engage in activities you enjoyed prior to your diagnosis and nurturing your interest. Spending quality time with loved ones and participating in group activities can be a great way to create bonds and strengthen relationships with those closest to you, which can greatly enhance your journey with cancer.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis has a profound impact on an individual, triggering a whirlwind of emotions and thought as they grapple with the news and attempt to envision their future while living with disease. It is completely normal to experience this wide range of feelings, and fortunately, there are numerous resources and support systems available to assist in coping with the emotional, physical, and financial challenges that arise. The support extends not only to the person diagnosed but also to their family and friends, who will undoubtedly be directly affected by the news. These loved ones may undergo similar emotional upheaval as the individual facing prostate cancer. Thus, it is essential to equip them with the necessary tools to navigate their own emotions, providing unwavering support to their loved ones, or seeking information about available treatments and palliative care options.
Utilising the services available to cancer patients and seeking support from your healthcare team is crucial. Professionals who specialise in assisting with the challenges of prostate cancer can provide individuals and their loved ones with information and support. By doing so, you can ease the burden on your family at every stage of the journey. This will enable you to focus on staying healthy, maintaining your daily routine, and alleviating the stress associated with cancer.
Finding the balance between medical treatment, emotional well-being and maintaining quality of life will help a person with cancer to effectively adapt to the new challenges that face following their diagnosis.
This outline provides a structure to address the key aspects of living with prostate cancer, including emotional well-being, physical health, relationships, support resources, and maintaining a good quality of life.