When your doctor told you that you had prostate cancer, you might have felt numb. You might have felt panic. You almost certainly began to experience anxiety and distress, and perhaps depression as the news truly sunk in. Treating prostate cancer should be about more than just killing the cancer cells. Your emotional well-being will also be challenged, and it’s important to reach out and get help.
A survey published in a 2007 issue of Biopsychosocial Medicine revealed that nearly all the research on prostate cancer published to that date focused on the physical effects, rather than the emotional effects. However, the survey also found that in one study, one out of five prostate cancer patients reported depression, and half of those patients experienced severe depression. Patients may also experience dread, vulnerability, sadness, and isolation. If you are struggling to cope with your diagnosis, remember to care for your emotional well-being, just as you care for your body throughout the cancer treatment.
Understand your limits
Trying to stay in a positive frame of mind can help, but so can understanding your limits. If you feel overwhelmed by your day-to-day routine, learn to let the little things go. Your home doesn’t have to be immaculate, for example. You don’t have to maintain a grueling work schedule. It’s perfectly okay – and beneficial – to take naps in the middle of the day. Remind yourself that you simply can’t do everything, and that your health is the first priority. Give yourself time to enjoy your favorite activities or to visit your place of worship, if that applies to you.
Some men might experience feelings of hopelessness. Becoming an informed patient can help you cope with this. Ask your doctor as many questions as you can think of, and then look for a second opinion. Explore all of your treatment options and talk to your doctor about the possible side effects.
Develop a support network
Build a network of support to help you get through this difficult time. Talk openly with your family and friends. Talk to your doctor about local resources, such as support groups and financial aid organizations. Some organizations offer assistance with home care and transportation. Joining a support group is especially recommended. You’ll be able to share your concerns with a group of men who understand exactly what you’re dealing with. Simply knowing that you are not facing prostate cancer alone may greatly ease your mind. If you’re hesitant about joining a support group, try joining an online support group for men with prostate cancer.
Learn relaxation techniques
Use relaxation techniques, such as muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and deep breathing. Try music therapy, art therapy, or movement therapy. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program. Exercise forces the release of endorphins. Endorphins diminish pain and act as a sedative. They work to reduce your stress, anxiety, and depression. Regular exercise can also help you sleep better at night. Make a habit of going for a daily walk, head for a nature trail, or try a yoga class.
Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.
Bloch S et al. Psychological adjustment of men with prostate cancer: a review of the literature. Biopsychosocial Medicine 2007; 1:2