When your partner is diagnosed with prostate cancer

A prostate cancer diagnosis may frighten not only the patient but also his life mate. If your husband has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you may wonder how aggressive is this disease, what are the available treatments, what changes will it produce in your family life and how can you support your spouse through this difficult period.

For a long time, prostate cancer was considered to be a health condition of aged-men, usually over 65. Today, more and more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their 40s, at a young age. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among American men and the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer is increasing each year. You have probably never imagined that your husband will be one of them. You need concrete information about what to expect and how to comfort and provide emotional support for your loved one.

The recommended treatment for prostate cancer depends on the stage of cancer. Early stage cancers are treated differently than aggressive, advanced cancers. Early detection plays an important role in the success rate of the treatment.

Here is a list of what you need to know about prostate cancer:

  • Prostate cancer stages

When deciding on the best treatment for prostate cancer, you need to know, first of all, what stage is it. Staging is the process of identifying the extent of cancer and whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or to nearby tissues (metastasized). Based on various key factors, four main stages of prostate cancer can be identified.

Prostate cancer – stages I and II the tumor can either be felt or not during a digital rectal exam. In these stages, prostate cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or to nearby tissues. Cancer has probably been discovered during a TURP or a biopsy following a high PSA level. Regarding the extent of cancer, stage I cancer might be located on one half of one side of the prostate or on less than that. Stage II cancer is more than half of one side of the prostate or even on both sides of the prostate.

Prostate cancer – stage IIIthe tumor has spread outside the prostate and might have touched the seminal vesicles. Also, it might have spread to other nearby tissues, such as the rectum, bladder or the urethral sphincter. It is important to know that stage III cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes. The PSA can be of any value.
Prostate cancer – stage IV Athe tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes but might not be spread to nearby tissues.

B – the tumor has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones or other organs. Prostate cancer stage IV is usually very aggressive.

According to the PSA level, the biopsy, the Gleason Score and other factors, the doctor can determine the stage of cancer. Now that you know what stage is your partner’s cancer, you probably wonder about the treatment options and their success rate.

  • Prostate cancer treatment

  • Watchful waiting or active surveillance 

Who might be eligible for this kind of treatment?

Only men with slow-growing prostate cancer or with cancer that has not spread to other tissues or parts of the body.

What do these treatments involve?

Watchful waiting is an approach based on mere observation of cancer until symptoms appear. It does not involve follow-ups or prostate exams. It is considered a solution to the negative effects or prostate cancer overdiagnosis. This approach allows men with less serious cancer to avoid the side-effects of prostate cancer treatment.

Active surveillance involves a more intense monitoring of prostate cancer, including periodical exams and follow-ups. Also, patients may be required to have a prostate biopsy every year. Only if the results of these tests change, treatment will be recommended.

It is noteworthy that especially old men or patients with other severe health problems are offered these treatment options because prostate cancer is likely to grow in a period of 10-20 years. So, if your partner is young and healthy, consider the next treatment options.

  • Radiation

Radiation therapy is a type of treatment that uses high-energy rays in order to kill the cancerous cells. It is used as a treatment for prostate cancer that is organ-confined and low grade. Also, radiation therapy can be combined with hormone therapy as a treatment for metastatic cancers. Radiation therapy can be external or internal (brachytherapy). Radiation therapy may come with a set of side-effects such as the chance of secondary rectal cancer, rectal bleeding or bladder bleeding. Also, it extremely important to know that surgery after radiation is a risky procedure.

  • Robotic Prostatectomy

Thanks to the latest technological advances, robotic prostatectomy is an option for prostate cancer patients. It is a minimally invasive procedure that ensures total cancer removal. Six weeks after prostate surgery, the PSA level should go down to 0 and should stay 0 thereafter.  Recovery after robotic prostatectomy is a fast process, the patient being able to resume his daily activities in a matter of days. What is more, your marriage won’t be affected, the sexual function being preserved. Your partner will regain urinary control and enjoy a good quality of life. Prostate removal, in the hands of an experienced surgeon, is a successful treatment.

How to provide emotional support

A cancer diagnosis is usually affecting a man’s mental health and, consequently, his relationships with family members and friends. It cannot be denied that prostate cancer makes an emotional impact on the entire family.

Ways to provide comforting support:

  • Your partner may be confused. Help him make decisions regarding the treatment that will give him confidence and strength to fight.
  • Your partner might be afraid of surgery. Make sure his fears and concerns are addressed in your discussions with the doctors. Be his eyes, ears, and voice with the medical personnel.
  • Your partner might dwell on negative things. He probably considers himself a burden for you and the rest of your family. Use a kind speech and let him know how much you appreciate him.
  • Your partner may feel useless. It is hard for a man to face the fact that he cannot do as many things as he used to. Try to encourage him to keep fighting depression by thinking at the many beautiful things that lie ahead.
  • Have a cancer-free day. Help your loved one not to make the illness the only focus of his attention. Regularly, decide not to talk about cancer for a whole day. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of life. It is like taking a vacation from the worrisome thoughts.
  • Be compassionate and listen carefully. Avoid getting nervous about hearing so many complaints and exercise patience. Help your partner be more realistic and do not allow him to wallow in self-pity.

Your role as a partner of a cancer patient is very important.  Do not underestimate the positive effect you can have on your partner’s attitude and desire to fight cancer. Contact an expert urologist that will provide the valuable advice you and your partner urgently need.

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