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Prostate Cancer: Talking to People About Your Diagnosis


About 1 in 8 men find out that he has prostate cancer sometime in his lifetime. In fact, this is the second major reason for cancer But when they get the news, many men find it difficult to talk about it or reach out for help and support as they navigate their cancer journey.

While no one really knows why shame and stigma are associated with prostate cancer, Christopher Filson, assistant professor of urology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, says it may have something to do with the prognosis and side effects of the treatment. could. The effects can affect your sex life and how manly you feel.

“[These] There may be topics that men are too cautious to discuss with family members, friends, and others, making it a little more sensitive. And it can be more difficult for them to branch out to get more information from their specific support network,” says Filson.

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Prostate It is a walnut sized gland. located just below urinary bladder and around the urethra – a tube that carries urine out of your body. The prostate also makes and stores fluid that helps your body make Semen. But when cancer cells grow in that gland, Filson says it “can impair sexual function and urinary control.”

“[This] Can be the most difficult time for a man, especially if they are still concerned about cancer care.”

It’s about more than just cancer

Jerry Dean knows this sentiment all too well. It’s been more than 22 years since Dean found out prostate cancer. In 1999, when Dean was 55, a visceral feeling of physically getting by led to the diagnosis.

No one knew she had prostate cancer. Dean asked his doctor if he knew anyone he could connect with. Turns out, there were several people there, but none of them were telling anyone about their condition.

“If men are afraid of it, they won’t share it. [They] Don’t just call other men and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got prostate cancer and I’m afraid of death. What do I do about this?’ They just don’t do that,” Dean says.

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Instead, the tendency is to see it on the Internet. Dean says that can be overwhelming.

“It’s like drinking from a fire hose – you’re just overwhelmed by all of this. So, you need other people’s support.”

Finding out you have prostate cancer can be overwhelming mental health And the reason:

Right after his diagnosis, Dean underwent surgery, and the doctor told him he would have defeated it for good. So, Dean says he didn’t bother reaching out to a support group.

Unfortunately, the cancer came back about a year later.

in spite of radiation and chemotherapyDean’s protein-specific antigen levels (PSA) — a type of protein produced by prostate cells that can measure cancer progression — kept climbing.

An oncologist told Dean and his wife that his cancer had spread, and that he might have cancer for the rest of his life.

“We were so depressed,” Dean says. “It’s one of the shortest days in my life to find out that I had metastatic prostate cancer Somewhere in my body

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While leaving the doctor’s office, he picked up a brochure for a prostate cancer support group.

In his first meeting, he not only met other people going through a similar journey, but also a urologist who had prostate cancer. Dean was able to get a second opinionRead more, learn coping strategies, and gain insight into other people’s prostate cancer journeys.

The support group became a place where he could “speak freely” about whatever was bothering him, or use it as an educational resource to learn more about his condition. was.

“Cancer doesn’t care whether you pay attention to it, or just forget about it and deny it. If you want to live to live a long, healthy life, you need information, support, education, and advocacy for yourself. It needs to be done with that,” Dean says.

couple’s disease

Prostate cancer, in addition to taking physical and emotional effects on you, can cause physical side effects and a lack of communication that can affect your relationship with your partner.

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74-year-old Bob Wright had no symptoms of prostate cancer in 2007. After a few years of treatment, doctors told him that he had no evidence of recurrent disease (NERD). But the side effects left her “severely impotent and incontinent.”

“I still remember a poster saying that prostate cancer is a couple’s disease. Because many men, as a result of treatment for prostate cancer, radiation or surgery, become impotent, and this affects the couple’s relationship, “says Wright, a native of Austin, TX.

“So that part is probably the most painful part that a lot of people don’t know.”

Filson encourages partners to come to the doctor especially for the first time. Often, partners can better communicate about reality, point out unusual symptoms or prompt men to get tested.

Having a partner can be especially helpful if you feel ashamed or embarrassed about yourself. prostate cancer diagnosis or symptoms.

“I try to measure the relationship and see how the communication is,” Filson says. “You often find subtle clues in the form of partners rolling their eyes about their significant others who don’t disclose information or are stubborn.”

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As female partners become the primary caregivers for men with prostate cancer, Filson is able to prepare them for what is to come.

For 49-year-old Vivian Conboy, her 55-year-old husband’s diagnosis of stage IV prostate cancer came as devastating news in 2020. But what surprised him more was that there were family members who had prostate cancer, but they never shared anything about it.

“I’m starting to hear more about prostate cancer from local people now because my husband has it and he’s very involved in the community,” says Conboy, a New Jersey native.

“People have come out like, ‘Oh yeah, I have that. Oh yeah, I have this,’ but it’s so taboo.”

It is still difficult for her husband to open up about it. Conboy says he jokes about it in front of his brothers or friends about things like paying for life insurance. But she takes it down to “coping mechanisms.”

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As the primary caregiver, Conboy didn’t feel she could talk to her friends about changes in her husband’s health or their intimate lives. So, she reached out to a local support group for help and advice.

“It helped to read other people’s stories. I was just here to admire and it’s good to know that you are not the only one who is going through this,” Conboy says.

Now, she encourages her nephews and sons to get tested early and do things to stay healthy, which includes eating healthy. She says this is her way of normalizing the discussion about prostate cancer.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.”

When Keith Hoffman’s PSA test showed a slightly higher number, it was his then-fiancée (now-wife) who encouraged this 62-year-old man to see a urologist. Fortunately for Hoffman, his prostate cancer was caught early, and he was able to have surgery that same month.

But it still weighed on him.

“One of the things I learned in the cancer journey was that it is very difficult for anyone to be told they have cancer,” says Hoffman. It was also his wife who inspired him to reach out to a local support group led by Us TOO, a national prostate cancer support organization with local chapters to get help.

“It gives men the opportunity to talk to other men and their caregivers about all aspects of the procedure, not only from the clear comfort of doctors and specialties, but also to identify treatments, tips or options for treatment in case of pain.” For or Hoffman says, “expect the recovery time from an ordinary person’s set-up.” He relied so much on the group’s support and camaraderie that he decided to join the national organization’s board of directors.

importance of support

Hoffman and Wright met at the same local chapter in Austin, TX. Both affirm how important and “valuable” it is to seek help, share your journey, and talk to peers about your diagnosis—especially those who have gone through similar obstacles.

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Getting information can feel empowering no matter what stage your cancer is in.

“They may just feel safe and they may or may not say anything,” Wright says. “But the magic happens after the meeting. The boys don’t want to go home.”

Talking to others about your diagnosis can help you:

  • provide cordiality and support
  • making you feel less alone or isolated
  • Educate you and make you feel empowered to face your diagnosis and treatment
  • Open to additional resources that can provide things like treatment dos and don’ts, help with managing side effects, tips for health care providers, and tips for living a healthy lifestyle.
  • reduce depression and anxiety
  • Help you learn coping skills and acquire the tools to deal with it Tension
  • Provide a safe space to talk openly about your feelings, doubts and fears

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If you are unable to locate a support group in your area, you can find many virtual communities to join and share your journey.

In addition to support groups, you can also rely on your cancer care team at your hospital. This includes a variety of health care professionals such as physicians, social workers, palliative care specialist, and oncologist. Often, resources are available at no cost. If you have any questions, ask your doctor about it.

like exercise yoga and note, As well as counseling Having a therapist, too, can improve your mood and help you navigate your cancer journey.

It’s important to tell your doctor if you’re concerned about medication or treatment side effects, bladder problems, and sexual dysfunction. They may be able to find treatment options that work better for you.

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