A new web-based support program could help reduce the psychological stress that affects prostate cancer survivors, a recent study concluded.
The program was created by researchers and clinicians at the U.K.’s University of Surrey and National Health Service (NHS). The web-based tool offers prostate cancer survivors online cognitive behavioral therapy sessions and both filmed and interactive peer support.
The study, “A Web-Based Intervention to Reduce Distress After Prostate Cancer Treatment: Development and Feasibility of the Getting Down to Coping Program in Two Different Clinical Settings,” was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Cancer.
In the U.K., over 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, about 129 new diagnoses every day.
The side effects of prostate cancer treatment, which include urinary, sexual, or bowel complications, can negatively affect psychological health. Recent studies have shown that 65 percent of men with the disease say they have unmet psychological needs, and up to a third experience anxiety or depression.
Additionally, prostate cancer patients have a greater risk of suicide, suggesting that the U.K.’s healthcare system is failing to provide sufficient psychological care to this patient group.
Researchers found that this new system helped men cope with their disease and the side effects of treatment. Study participants reported feeling empowered by the program, signaling a change of attitude in how they approach life after prostate cancer.
After reviewing the responses of 24 men who completed the web-based program and assessments, researchers concluded that the program is innovative in clinical practice.
“Men traditionally are reticent about seeking help for their mental health, particularly when it is related to prostate cancer,” lead author Jane Cockle-Hearne said in a press release. “This may be due to embarrassment about asking for help or reluctance to admit they have a problem, either physical or emotional. What we have found is that this can lead to longer periods of depression and anxiety, which over time can seriously affect a person’s quality of life and how well they cope with their physical problems.”
Cockle-Hearne added, “Thanks to medical advances in diagnosis and treatment, increasing numbers of men are surviving prostate cancer, which is incredibly welcome. But we must act now to treat their mental health too. This new programme will enable men to get the information and support they need, as well as providing the NHS with a cost-effective way to deliver high-quality health care.”