Coping with prostate cancer | Cancer Research UK
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Coping with prostate cancer

It can be very difficult to cope with a diagnosis of cancer, both practically and emotionally. You may feel very upset and confused at first. All sorts of different feelings may come and go. As well as coping with the fear and anxiety that a diagnosis of cancer brings, you have to work out how to manage practically. Who do you tell you have cancer? There may be children or grandchildren to consider.

Our coping with cancer section contains lots of information you may find helpful including information about who can help, counselling, financial issues and much more.

There are sections about

  • Your feelings
  • Talking to people: who and what to tell
  • Talking to children
  • How you can help yourself
  • Who else can help you
  • Sick pay and benefits – coping financially


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Coping with your diagnosis

It can be very difficult to cope with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, both practically and emotionally. At first, you are likely to feel very upset, frightened and confused. Or you may feel that things are out of your control. It is very important to get the right information about your type of cancer and how it is best treated. People who are well informed about their illness and treatment are more able to make decisions and cope with what happens.


How prostate cancer can affect you physically

Prostate cancer and its treatment may cause physical changes in your body. Different treatments can cause different types of physical effects. These changes can be very difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. Such body changes can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people, especially close family and friends.

You may find that you have changes to the way that your bowel or bladder work after radiotherapy. There is information about coping with these changes in the pelvic radiotherapy side effects section. There is also information about urinary problems after prostate cancer treatment in this section. If you have leakage of urine or a urinary catheter, you can get help from an incontinence advisor or your specialist nurse. You can also contact some of the incontinence organisations on our prostate organisations page.

Another problem you may have to cope with is feeling very tired and lethargic a lot of the time, especially for a while after treatment or if the prostate cancer is advanced. There is information about fatigue and cancer and treating cancer fatigue in the section about coping physically with cancer.

If you are having a sexual relationship, one or all of these changes may affect your sex life. There is information about how cancer can affect your sex life in the coping with cancer section. There is also specific information about sex and prostate cancer in this section.

There is also more information about coping with hormone changes in our hormone symptoms section.


Coping practically with prostate cancer

As well as coping with the fear and anxiety that a diagnosis of prostate cancer brings, you may also have to work out how to manage practically. There may be money matters to sort out. You may need information about financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants

Who do you tell that you have cancer? And how do you find the words? You may also have children to think about. We have information about talking to people about your cancer and how and what to tell children.

Try to remember that you don't have to sort everything out at once. It may take some time to deal with each issue. Do ask for help if you need it though. Your doctor or specialist nurse will know who you can contact to get some help. They can put you in touch with people specially trained in supporting you. These people are there to help and want you to feel that you have support. So do contact them if you need to.

You may need to have access to support staff. Social workers can help you with information about your entitlement to sick pay and benefits. If you live alone, a social worker may be able to help by organising convalescence when you first come out of hospital.


Coping emotionally with prostate cancer

Each man has his own feelings when he learns he has prostate cancer. Sometimes the main feelings are shock and numbness. At other times it may be fear or confusion, anger or disbelief. But your feelings may be completely different. All sorts of different feelings may come and go.

Your friends and family probably have strong feelings too. They may find it difficult to talk about what is happening to you. It can be hard for some families to talk about cancer or share their feelings. If you are the person with cancer or a close relative, look out for friends and relatives with a positive attitude. They can be very helpful in making you feel better.  

Try not to feel that you have to rush into talking about the illness. Talk about it when you are ready. Prostate Cancer UK offers information and support through their helpline and a leaflet.

Remember that you are not alone. Other people have gone through this experience. There are many helpful prostate cancer organisations who can give support and information and help you to find a support group. It can help a great deal to talk to other people who are going through similar experiences. You may be able to find people to talk to when you go for treatment appointments. 

Peter, a prostate cancer patient from Southampton, told us

"The many patients I met while I was waiting to have radiotherapy gave me a lot of support.  We swapped stories, experiences, confidences and all manner of details – almost like an old boys club!"

Or you can try chatting on line, on our Cancer Chat forum. You may find it really helpful to talk to other people about how they coped.


More information on coping with prostate cancer

Our coping with cancer section has lots of helpful information. There are sections about

You can talk to your specialist nurse at the hospital about anything that is worrying you. Our cancer information nurses are also available for you to contact. They would be happy to help.

If you would like more detailed information about coping with prostate cancer, contact one of the prostate cancer organisations. They often have free factsheets and booklets they can send to you. They may also be able to put you in touch with a support group. We also have a prostate cancer reading list.

You can also find details of counselling organisations, that can tell you more about counselling and help you find sources of emotional support in your area.

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Updated: 26 February 2014