The prostate is a gland present in men’s reproductive systems. It suffers alterations throughout the men’s lives, being the first great enlargement during adolescence. Its size remains almost the same during adulthood, but as men get older, the prostate tends to enlarge and diseases of the prostate become more likely. Prostate cancer is a malignant disease characterized by an abnormal growth of the cancer cells and it is one of the conditions that may occur as men get older.

About 2.8 million men were estimated to be living with prostate cancer in the US in 2012. It is rare among men younger than 50 years older and the average age of diagnosis is 65 years old. However, it is the second most common type of cancer in the country. While the majority of men do not die from it, prostate cancer can be a severe condition. Therefore, it is important for men to know what to expect from living with prostate cancer and how to handle the challenges associated with the disease.

Coping With the Physical Impact of Prostate Cancer

“It can be very difficult to cope with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, both practically and emotionally,” note Cancer Research UK. “At first, you are likely to feel very upset, frightened and confused. Or you may feel that things are out of your control. It is very important to get the right information about your type of cancer and how it is best treated. People who are well informed about their illness and treatment are more able to make decisions and cope with what happens.”

Both prostate cancer and the treatments for the disease cause physical alterations. The most common symptoms of the disease include urinary problems, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction, pain, and weakness or numbness. In early stages, the symptoms tend to be milder or even unnoticeable, while as the disease progresses, the symptoms usually get worse. There are, however, treatment options, depending on the stage and grade of the cancer, patient’s age, expected life span and other severe conditions, patient’s feeling and doctor’s opinion on the need to treat the cancer right away and possible side effects from each treatment, as well as likelihood that treatment will cure the cancer.

Patients often need to make regular visits with a series of physicians, including urologists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists. Watchful waiting, radiation therapy, surgery and hormone therapy are the most common approaches, but cryotherapy, chemotherapy, vaccine treatment and bone-directed treatment are also options. Each of these options have side effects, but one of the most important is the impact of prostate cancer in patient’s sex life. At the physical level, patients are at risk of erectile dysfunction, loss of libido and infertility. In addition, the diagnosis, symptoms and treatments’ side effects may also cause anxiety or depression and alter patients’ feeling about sex, while relationships may also be affected by the physical and emotional burden of the disease.

Coping with Emotional Burden of Prostate Cancer

The physical impact of prostate cancer is considerable and it is determinant that patients seek help, but the emotional burden is equally important. The alterations experienced can cause anxiety, fear, low self esteem, or depression at all stages, starting at diagnosis. One of the other problems related to prostate cancer are patients’ relationship with others — especially how to tell friends and family, and particularly small children, about the diagnosis and prognosis. In addition, there are practical concerns like needing information about financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants, which may be overwhelming.

However, neither do patients need to figure it out all at once, nor do they need to it alone. There is time and specialized people that can help with the different issues. Regarding practical concerns and doubts, patients can seek the help of their physician or specialized organizations to clarify any question. Social workers are also qualified to give support and information. A psychologist can be helpful to ease the emotional burden of the disease. Support groups and networks are also valuable resources for patients to find support, hear about other’s experiences and share their thoughts and feelings.

“Each man has his own feelings when he learns he has prostate cancer. Sometimes the main feelings are shock and numbness. At other times it may be fear or confusion, anger or disbelief. But your feelings may be completely different. All sorts of different feelings may come and go,” explain Cancer Research UK. “Your friends and family probably have strong feelings too. They may find it difficult to talk about what is happening to you. 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, look out for friends and relatives with a positive attitude. They can be very helpful in making you feel better.”

Recommendations for Prostate Cancer Survivors

Standard treatment and emotional support are not the only ways to cope with the challenges of living with prostate cancer. There are other recommendations and lifestyle alterations that may improve patients’ quality of life as well as help prostate cancer survivors remain healthy. The American Cancer Society recently issued a series of guidelines that focus on achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, be physically active, eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and check with the doctor before taking any supplements. Quitting smoking is also an alteration with great importance that may drastically improve overall health.

Regarding healthy weight, the society notes the importance of avoiding weight gain during prostate cancer treatment regardless if patients are at their healthy weight, while weight loss after recovery from treatment may benefit survivors who are overweight or obese. “Research has linked obesity to a greater risk of death from prostate cancer,” they said. “Studies show that exercise is safe during prostate cancer treatment and can improve many aspects of health, including muscle strength, balance, fatigue, cardiovascular fitness, and depression.” In addition, physical activity is associated with living longer and decreased probability or cancer recurrence. However, it is important to discuss the most appropriate and safe physical activity with a physician beforehand.

Patients are also likely to benefit from a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish; low in refined grains, beef, pork, lamb, and processed meat (such as hot dogs, sausage, and bacon), as well as low in high-fat dairy products. It is known that a diet high in saturated fat, including red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) and high-fat dairy products, increases the risk of prostate cancer. Supplements may be an easy choice to address dietary problems, but research has shown that taking vitamins, herbs, and other nutritional supplements often does not help cancer patients live longer and may even shorten life. Therefore, patients should confirm with their physicians before starting taking any supplements.

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.