Six Things You Shouldn’t Say to Men With Prostate Cancer

Six Things You Shouldn’t Say to Men With Prostate Cancer

Living & Loving with Prostate Cancer
As I began sharing the news I had prostate cancer with friends and family, some of the responses I received were hurtful rather than helpful. I don’t think anyone purposely set out to hurt me. I think too many people said he first thing that came to mind. Here are six comments that hurt rather than help. I’ll explain why these comments are not helpful so those who are  lacking in experience, sensitivity, or wisdom, can learn the reasons why these comments hurt rather than help.

1. “That’s too bad, my father, (Uncle Cousin, etc) died from prostate cancer.” This isn’t helpful because it heightens the fear and anxiety men are already coping with.

2. “At least you have a ‘good’ cancer.” When you are the one diagnosed with cancer you don’t feel good about having prostate cancer.

3. After surgery I was depressed about the quality of life changes brought about by prostate surgery. When I shared that with a friend she said “Why do you think you need emotional support? You’ve been cured of cancer and you should feel grateful.” Telling people how they should feel based on your assessment of the situation is a very bad idea. Listening without passing judgment is the way to be helpful.

4. Blame the man with cancer for his disease. “If you didn’t eat so much dairy and red meat you could have avoided prostate cancer.” Blaming someone for their disease AFTER a diagnosis is not in the least be helpful.

5. “I’ll pray for you.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with that response. As a Christian I appreciate and place a high value on people praying for me. Yet I’ve experienced this being used as a way to shut down discussion. If someone offers to pray with you without you asking for prayer, and/or without the person asking if there is something specific to pray for, odds are this offer, though genuine, might serve a dual purpose of preventing you from saying anything specific that would make the person who is volunteering to pray feel uncomfortable, fearful or anxious. So, don’t offer to pray for someone unless you know in advance those coping with prostate cancer place a value on prayer, and you ask if there is something specific you can pray for. Keep in mind it’s possible the person with cancer is angry with God or had his faith shaken in some way, Be sensitive about this possibility.

6. Comfort clichés These are brief comments such as “things will work out for the best,” or “I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Comfort clichés  are not meant to provide you with comfort. They enable the person who used it to stay within their comfort zone and prevent you from sharing a real concern. When someone offers you a comfort cliché, I suggest you thank them, then quickly move on to someone else who has the willingness and ability to listen to what you think and feel.

Note: Prostate Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Prostate Cancer News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to prostate cancer.

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Rick Redner received his master’s degree in social work from Michigan State University. He has spent many years working as a medical and psychiatric social worker He is the author of the award winning book I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours? His second book Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Erectile Dysfunction and Penile Implants won the Beverly Hills International Book Awards in Men's Health in 2016. Additionally, the book was a winner in the 2017 IAN Book of the Year Awards.
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  1. Chris O'Neill says:

    Maybe 7 could be, if you’ve had prostate surgery and had no problems whatsoever, don’t tell other men who have had surgery that you don’t know what their big deal is.

    It’s incredible how self-centered some people are.

    • Rick Redner says:

      It is frustrating and hurtful to share the news and receive a very poor response back. Early in my journey I gave up on the idea that a healthy person could provide meaningful comfort after hearing the news. It’s too shocking to them. The best comfort will come from those further down the road on the journey. If you need comfort or support the best place to find it is either on-line in PC forums or in person support groups.

  2. Brad Dishno says:

    What people don’t realize is that the cancer goes into remission and doesn’t really go away. Even after 45 radiation treatments the cancer has just stopped getting worse rather than being completly gone. I personnally found that most people would rather just avoid talking about it.

    • Chris O'Neill says:

      “doesn’t really go away”

      Indeed. A lot of people, including Ben Stiller for example, think that getting a PSA of zero after surgery means that they are “cured” and that the surgery “saved their life”. The issue is just too complex for a lot of people to deal with.

      • Rod R says:

        I know a good number of men who are 25 years out from prostate surgery and have not had additional problems. If that is not “cured”, it is as good as a cure.

        • Tim Bossie says:

          We get what you’re saying Rod. If the cancer has not returned, or caused problems in 25 years that is a great thing. However, there is always the chance that it can manifest again or metastasize in another area.

  3. Andy says:

    I didn’t find ‘I am really going to miss you’ very helpful either.
    As an atheist I find ‘ I will pray for you’ or ‘It’s all art of god’s plan ‘ far from useful either

  4. Rolf Vasil says:

    “That’s too bad, my father, (Uncle Cousin, etc) died from prostate cancer.” That one is really really bad!! Its really important to be careful when it comes about the prostate, specially at certain age, my uncle was not careful and when he tried to change it was late, he died of cancer, prostate cancer to be more specific, guys this is a serious thing I know many of us are shy to go to the doctor and get a check but it is neccesary, I try my best to be careful , i eat clean (healthy), i try to wrkout, sometimes i go for a run , i drink much water and i avoid drinkng too much (maybe this is the hardest part lol), also i take a supplement called alpha rise, it has helped me with my urinary problem, i used to feel pain whenever i had to pee but thats just past. Dont forget to take precautions guys!

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