Advanced prostate cancer treatment can help you live longer. But therapies used to slow it may cause you to have side effects. This can take a toll on your quality of life, especially in the short- term.
It’s natural to worry about your treatment. But there are steps you can take to feel better. Talk to your cancer care team about how they can help. Here are some things they might suggest.
Bring Closeness to Your Relationships
Social support can provide a buffer against major life stress. And if you have prostate cancer, studies show that strong ties to friends and family may lower your odds of depression, give you more hope, and improve your outlook on life.
To strengthen your relationships, you can:
Talk openly. Whether it’s a spouse, partner, friend, or family member, let your loved ones know what you’re going through. Ask for what you need, whether that’s emotional support, help with everyday things, or some time to yourself.
Focus on key connections. You might not need to go out and make new friends. Instead, you may get more out of spending more time with those you already value most.
Connect through peer support. Get advice from people who know what you’re going through. Go online and type in “prostate cancer support groups near me” to find resources near you. Other good sources include websites for:
- Prostate Cancer Foundation
- American Cancer Society
Talk to a professional. Not everyone has an easy time opening up. It’s OK to get outside help. Ask your doctor to refer you and maybe your family to a social worker, counselor, or psychologist who works with people who have cancer.
Manage Your Emotional Well-Being and Mental Health
There’s no right way to handle a cancer diagnosis. But it’s common for you to have emotional trouble somewhere along the way. You’ll likely experience have a range of feelings, including anger, fear, shock, or sadness.
Unmanaged mood issues can make it harder to stick with treatment and may impact your close relationships. But you should ask for help. Not enough people with prostate cancer get the mental health care they need.
The good news is there are steps you can take to manage your mental health. Your doctor might suggest:
- Antidepressant drugs
- Talk therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
Your emotional well-being may also get a boost if you:
- Learn all you can about your cancer and treatment
- Use humor
- Exercise more
- Lean on your faith or spirituality
It can also help to focus on the possible good things that might come out of your cancer diagnosis. That’s called benefit-finding. Studies show this kind of thinking may lower your stress hormones and support your emotional well-being and physical health.
While there’s nothing good about having cancer, some examples of benefit-finding might include:
- More gratitude for life
- Deeper relationships with loved ones
- Spiritual growth
- Stronger sense of self
- Healthy lifestyle changes
Find Ways to Accept Your Body’s Physical Changes
It’s natural to look different after prostate cancer treatment. Some side effects may change how you think about yourself and your body.
Treatment affects everyone in different ways. But a common type of hormone therapy used for prostate cancer (androgen deprivation therapy) can cause:
- Extra body fat storage
- Loss of strength
- Shrinkage of your penis and testicles
- Breast growth
- Body hair loss
Some people say these body changes make them feel less “manly.” But that’s not the case for everyone. For example, research shows that transgender women may see more-feminine changes as gender-affirming.
No matter how you identify, here are a couple of ways to boost your body image:
Exercise: Regular physical movement not only improves your mood, but it can also give you a sense of control over your life. And research has found that moderate- to- vigorous aerobic exercise can help some people with prostate cancer gain confidence.
Hang out with good friends. You may have an easier time accepting your body if those around you do the same. And while any kind of social support is good, there’s evidence that strong friendships may go a long way to lower your odds of depression and body image distress.
Have More Than One Hope
Hope is when you want something and take action to make it happen. Hopefulness is associated with better health, relationships, and ability to adapt to stressful life events like cancer.
Maybe your main hope is for your cancer to be cured and to live as long as possible. You also may hope to avoid major side effects from your prostate cancer treatment. These are important targets to shoot for. But they might not be possible. And you may feel low if you don’t have other goals in mind.
To boost your hope, think of other things that might make your life better. Whether big or small, tell your doctor what’s important to you. Here are some examples of things you might hope for:
- Not being in pain
- Being able to walk your dog
- Finding intimacy with your partner
- Traveling with your family or friends
- Being able to mow the lawn
Focus on What You Can Control
Life with cancer is impossible to predict. But you may feel less anxious if you find things to anchor your days. Some examples might include:
Create a daily routine. While you feel up to it, it’s OK to continue business as usual. Maybe that’s going to work, meeting friends for dinner, or keeping up with your hobbies. If you’re not sure what’s safe, talk to your doctor. They’ll let you know how and when to modify your routine.
Turn to healthy habits. Try to eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Make sure you get plenty of movement. If you smoke, there’s still time to quit.
Do something fun. Whether it’s watching a good movie or reading a book, go out and find something you enjoy. Want to learn a new skill or hobby? Go for it.
Find ways to unwind. Take a little time each day to do something that helps you feel at ease. Some relaxing choices might include meditation, deep-breathing exercises, or going for a walk.
Plan for the future. Some people with advanced cancer feel more at peace when they put their end-of-life affairs in order. If that’s something you’d like to do, ask your doctor who to talk to. They can refer you to a someone who can guide you through the process.
Get More Involved With Your Treatment Plan
Ask your medical team how you can take an active role in your health care. Make sure you bring up any symptoms and side effects that are bothering you. There’s a whole team of people who can help you feel better during and after cancer treatment. They’re called palliative care specialists.
Here are some quality-of-life questions to get you started:
- What are the pros and cons of my different treatment options?
- What are side effects of my treatment?
- How can I get help easing my symptoms and side effects?
- What happens if my treatment stops working?
You may also want to ask:
- What if I want to stop active treatment?
- What support services are available for me and my family?
- How long can I live with advanced prostate cancer?
It’s also a good idea to go over end-of-life medical care with your doctor. This may include supportive care, palliative care, and hospice. These decisions will help you feel comfortable during the last days and months of your life.
Photo Credit: FG Trade / Getty Images
Alex Choi, MD, instructor of medicine,in the Palliative Care Program,at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven.
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