Prostate Cancer: Living with your Diagnosis
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men in the United States, and is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. In 2015, about 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed and about 27,540 men will die from the disease. The good news is that prostate cancer can be treated successfully when found early. There are more than 2.8 million men in the United States who count themselves as prostate cancer survivors.
Prostate Cancer 101
Prostate cancer begins in the prostate. The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland found only in males. It contains cells that make fluid (semen) to protect and nourish sperm. Although there are some aggressive forms of prostate cancer, most forms are slow growing. This means that most often men can take time to talk to their doctors and decide what treatment will be best for them.
Know Your Risk. Talk to Your Doctor!
Risk factors for prostate cancer include age, family history and race. One in seven men will develop prostate cancer. Your chance of being diagnosed increases to:
- 1 in 5 if you are African-American; and
- 1 in 3 if you have a family history of the disease.
In its early stages, prostate cancer often has no symptoms. More advanced prostate cancers may cause some men to experience changes in urinary or sexual function such as:
- Problems urinating, including painful or burning urination or a need to use the bathroom more often, especially at night.
- Painful ejaculation.
- Blood in urine or semen.
- Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or pelvis that doesn't go away.
Because these symptoms may indicate the presence of other, more common, disorders, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is an enlarged prostate, or prostatitis, which is an inflammation of the prostate, men should talk to their doctor and undergo a thorough work-up to determine the underlying cause.
Prostate Cancer Prevention
There is no proven strategy for preventing prostate cancer. But you may lower your risk of prostate cancer by making healthy choices, such as exercising and eating a healthy diet. This includes eating a diet low in animal fat and high in fruits and vegetables. It also includes aiming for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Most doctors agree that, if you do things that are heart healthy, you will also help keep your prostate healthy.
Coping with a Diagnosis
It can be hard to deal with a diagnosis of prostate cancer. At first, you may feel shocked or scared. At other times, it may feel that things are out of your control. All sorts of different feelings may come and go. When you are trying to come to terms with an illness, there is no right or wrong way to feel. Everyone is different, and you will deal with things in your own way.
Try to remember that you don't have to sort everything out at once. It may take some time to deal with each step. Do ask for help if you need it though. Your health care team will know who you can contact for help. They can put you in touch with people specially trained in supporting you. There are people who can help you with information about money matters, your health care benefits and even how to talk to people about your illness. These people are there to help and want you to feel that you have support. Contact them if you need to.
Prostate Cancer Treatments and their Benefits and Risks
There are nearly 3 million men in the United States who count themselves as prostate cancer survivors. Deciding what treatment to choose can be tough. Some cancers grow so slowly that immediate treatment may not be needed. But some grow faster. It is very important to get the right information about your type of cancer and how it is best treated.
Remember - no one treatment is perfect for every man. It is important for you and your doctor to talk through which treatment is best for you. You and your doctor will most likely talk about the benefits and possible side effects of each option. These effects depend on the stage and grade of the cancer. Age, general health status and lifestyle are important things you and your doctor will discuss when deciding how best to manage your illness.
During and After Treatment
Prostate cancer and its treatment can sometimes cause emotional and physical changes in your body. These changes can be difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. Such body changes can affect your self-esteem and the way you relate to other people, especially close family and friends. It can be hard for some families to talk about cancer or share their feelings. If you are the person with cancer or a close relative of someone with prostate cancer, reach out to those friends and relatives who have a positive attitude. They can be very helpful in making you feel better.
It's important to eat well during and after prostate cancer treatment. Sometimes cancer treatments can change whether or not you feel hungry or want to eat. It can also make the food you eat taste differently. If you eat well while you are being treated for cancer, it might help you:
- Feel better
- Keep up your strength and energy
- Better deal with side effects from treatment
- Lower your risk of infection
- Heal and recover faster
Being physically active can improve how you feel both during and after prostate cancer treatment. You may have to change your regular exercise program during treatment. Some studies have shown that physical activity after a prostate cancer diagnosis is linked to living longer and lowering the chance the prostate cancer will return.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
A healthy weight may help you better handle prostate cancer treatments and also lower your chances of developing other health conditions like heart disease. If your appetite is changed by your treatment plan and you find yourself losing weight, you may want to work with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan to keep your weight up.
DEALING WITH LOSS OF SEX DRIVE AND URINARY INCONTINENCE
Be honest with your doctors about what's bothering you and how your treatments are affecting your sex life. There are many medications and tools to help you keep intimacy in your life. For loss of bladder control, men may make behavioral changes, like drinking less water or fluids before bed and reducing drinks with caffeine, which tend to bother the bladder. Talk to your doctor about the best option for you. For more information on erectile dysfunction and bladder control after prostate cancer treatment, visit UrologyHealth.org/AfterPCa.
COMPLEMENTARY, ALTERNATIVE OR INTEGRATIVE HEALTH
More Americans are using non-conventional ways to help manage their health. This holds true for prostate cancer patients. Prostate cancer patients may choose these tools and practices to use along with their prostate cancer treatment. They may include naturopathy, herbal therapy, yoga, meditation, massage therapy, art therapy, guided imagery, tai chi and even acupuncture.
MENTAL HEALTH AND SOCIAL SUPPORT
At some point, you may want to speak to a mental health professional, such as a licensed social worker, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. These professionals can help you process what you're going through and provide strategies for coping with stress. Stress management can help you fight tiredness and stay energized. Many prostate cancer patients and their loved ones also find comfort in support groups. Lastly, people in your social network want to help. Let them know what would be useful to you (e.g., a ride to an appointment, watching the kids, a meal).
Remember that you are not alone. Other people have gone through this experience. There are many helpful prostate cancer organizations that can give support and information. It can help to talk to other people who are going through similar experiences. You may be able to find people to talk to when you go for treatment appointments or through local support groups. To learn more about prostate cancer, visit: UrologyHealth.org/ProstateCancer.