Up to 30 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Although only three percent of men will die from the disease, there are often complications that survivors may have to endure, such as erectile dysfunction and emotional issues. Dr. Arnold Melman, co-author of After Prostate Cancer: A What-Comes-Next Guide to a Safe and Informed Recovery, talked to Spry about some important things to keep in mind when you or a loved one is dealing with prostate cancer.
Men are not the only ones affected by the disease. Often, wives and partners will need to take an active role in the diagnosis, treatment and recovery periods. “Most men are private and not willing to talk about their fears of death, loss of sexual prowess or possible changes in their bodily functions,” Dr. Melman explains. “Opening the window to discussion by one’s wife, partner, or a close friend could allow release of pent-up fears and anxieties.”
Your choice of doctor is key. Because life after prostate cancer can be drastically different than before the diagnosis, it is very important to find the right physician for you and your family. “Havingsomeone for patients to talk to when they are afraid andhelping them make potentially unpleasant choices is a critical role for physicians in caring for patients,” Dr. Melman says. “I recommend that patients seek out physicians whom they believe will be there for them if all does not go well.”
Keeping your family involved in the healing process is important for their own health. “Sons of men with the disease have a greater probability of developing prostate cancer. They should have their PSA (prostate specific antigen) checkup beginning at age 40 and annually or every other year thereafter depending on the result,” Dr. Melman says. Talking about the situation with your family may also prove to be an effective coping mechanism.
Understand that there are multiple treatment options available. Much of Dr. Melman’s research is focused on what he believes to be the future of prostate cancer treatments, gene transfer. The benefit of gene transfer is that it could drastically reduce the incidents of erectile dysfunction in prostate cancer survivors. Exploring multiple treatment options may ease a man’s fear of losing his potency because of the diagnosis. “The sense of maleness is the primary issue for most men before and after therapy. That is why an understanding of what may happen and how it can be treated is so critical for the man,” says Dr. Melman.