Finding out that a loved one has cancer often comes as a shock. If someone you love has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it may be a struggle to find the right words to comfort them and figure out the best way to support him. You may also worry about how your loved one’s cancer will affect you.
“There’s always the concern from the family about what they can do to help support Dad or even a son who has prostate cancer,” says Steven G. Lester, M.D., F.A.C.R.O., a board-certified radiation oncologist, at Central Florida Cancer Care Center.
“I think it’s a more general question for any of our patients who have cancer. What you want to do is support them, not baby them. You want to help them minimize the changes in their daily life with regard to receiving their treatments. A lot of patients don’t want to talk about it every 30 minutes because it causes too much anxiety.”
What Steps Can You Take to Support a Loved One With Prostate Cancer?
When a man discovers he has prostate cancer, it can take time to process the reality of the situation. You can help your loved one navigate the next steps after diagnosis. It’s important to talk with them about how they feel about their diagnosis and share reactions, fears, and hopes if the patient is open to discusing it.
You can also support your loved one along the road to making decisions about treatment. You can help make appointments, prepare questions for doctors’ visits, and ask for clarification when you don’t understand what is being discussed. While you are focusing on learning about the cancer, support the things that give your loved one pleasure, such as sports activities, family events, and getting together with friends.
“In supporting a family member, you’re going to hear a lot about different measures that will help in addition to the treatment such as weight loss and dietary changes,” says Dr. Lester. “You want to encourage the patient but not be overbearing. A lot is coming at them. Our goal is to get the patient through the treatment, have the family support them, and let them see that the treatments are not that harsh.”
How Can You Support a Loved One During Prostate Cancer Treatment?
Deciding which treatment options to pursue can be challenging and often confusing. Understanding and thoroughly examining all available treatment plans is vital to give your loved one peace of mind. Options may include active treatment, active surveillance, or even clinical trials. Some men, depending on their age, may choose not to have treatment at all.
Many partners, family, and friends of men with prostate cancer find that learning more about the disease and its treatment is helpful. It can help you support your loved one when they need to make decisions about treatment. Educating yourself about treatments can also help you both prepare for anticipated recovery time and possible side effects.
Some men may prefer to have someone accompany them to their doctor’s appointment. It can be challenging to take everything in, ask questions, and make notes all at the same time. Bringing along a friend or loved one to remember what was said, take notes, and ask questions can be very beneficial.
“There’s a lot of anxiety initially with how harsh the treatments may be because of the false perception that radiation is painful,” says Dr. Lester. “Once we get the patient into treatment, they realize that it’s easy for them to do. Then, you can support them by helping them lose weight, initiate any dietary changes that may be recommended, and live a normal, healthy lifestyle.”
With prompt and proper treatment, the vast majority of prostate cancer patients are able to overcome the disease. The five-year survival rate (what percent of men live at least five years after the cancer is found) for most men with local prostate cancer is almost 100%, and 98% are alive after 10 years.
For more information on prostate cancer and how you can support a loved one during the treatment process, please feel free to contact us.