How Advanced Prostate Cancer Affects the Family

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 11, 2022
3 min read

People with prostate cancer aren't the only ones affected by it. The disease also has a significant impact on those closest to them -- most often spouses. More than half of spouses told researchers in a recent survey that they take an active role in their husbands' experience. This includes boosting their husbands' morale, making sure treatments are taken the way they should, and helping with treatment decisions.

Spouses also go through many of the same emotions that their husbands face. More than half of spouses said they feel helpless, anxious, or depressed, or had a loss of intimacy. But there was good news, too. Many spouses said that the disease brought them closer to their husbands.

If your spouse or another close member of your family has prostate cancer, the following coping strategies may help.

Be prepared for changes in your loved one's behavior and mood. Medications, discomfort, and stress can cause depression or anger. Encourage them to be active and independent as much as possible to help them regain a sense of self-reliance and confidence.

  • Don't hesitate to ask other family members and friends for help. They will appreciate the opportunity to help.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when you are physically fit. Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Try to keep a positive attitude.
  • Accept that there are some events you can’t control.
  • Be assertive rather than aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
  • Rest and sleep. Take some time off for yourself. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events. Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.

When dealing with prostate cancer, people need to plan for the future. This often applies to financial, medical, and legal issues. Consider these strategies now:

  • If you are employed and have health insurance through your employer, consider moving your spouse onto your health plan.
  • Discuss an advance health directive. This document allows someone else to make medical decisions for the patient if they are no longer able.
  • Suggest that your loved one sign over financial powers of attorney to a family member. This allows another person to make financial decisions for the patient regarding bills and the like if they lose the ability to do so.

Let your loved one know that you're there for them while they battle prostate cancer. Without prying, give them the opportunity to share their fears and concerns about the disease.

Show an interest in what your loved one is going through with prostate cancer. Offer to go with them to doctor visits. This is the best way to learn about their health, treatment decisions, and other important issues related to the disease.

Feel free to ask questions of the doctor and others on the medical team -- if it's OK with the patient. Be sensitive about asking questions to which they may not want answers.

Many hospitals offer support groups for prostate cancer patients and their family members. Sharing emotions with sympathetic listeners can offer relief. Plus, listening to others' experiences may provide you with new insights and coping strategies. You may also want to seek advice and support from social workers. These professionals are specially trained to counsel families of patients with terminal illnesses.