Receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis is difficult, it is natural to feel a range of emotions from shock to fear, even anger. Once the initial wave of emotions has passed, the question of what to do next remains.
The good news is that prostate cancer is typically a slow growing disease, providing you with enough time to regroup, educate yourself, and make the best possible decisions for you as a family and as an individual. Every patient is different; here is a 5-step guide to help you through your personal journey to recovery.
1) Know the basics – Learning about prostate cancer and how it progresses can be daunting and discouraging. By now, you probably know that there is an abundance of prostate cancer information on the Internet and determining whether or not the information is reliable can be difficult. For general information about prostate cancer, consider reviewing sites like The American Society of Clinical Oncologists, The American Cancer Society, Cancer.gov, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. These sites provide a great compilation of general knowledge, but they may not always be up-to-date on the latest approved treatment options.
2) Understand diagnostic tests – There are a range of diagnostic tests that can and have been used to diagnose prostate cancer; the 2018 PROMIS study published in European Urology found that using a combination of multi-parametric MRI (mpMRI) together with transrectal ultra-sound-guided biopsy (TRUSB) detected significant prostate cancer 91% of the time while avoiding low-risk tumors. While this combination is not universally accepted, it is gradually becoming the standard of care especially in Europe. You should work with your doctor to determine which set of diagnostic tests are best suited to your specific set of circumstances.
3) Understanding YOUR diagnosis – After diagnosis, knowing which of three general categories your cancer falls into - localized, locally advanced, or advanced prostate cancer - will determine the set of treatment options that may be appropriate for you.
4) Thoroughly explore your treatment options – There’s a range of different treatment approaches for prostate cancer, including; no treatment (active surveillance), targeting specific regions of the prostate (focal therapy), and whole gland treatment using accepted standards such as radiation therapy and surgery. Each option is geared to different stages and grades of cancer and each carries a different set of benefits, side effects, and potential complications.
Since different specialists tend to recommend the treatments they are most familiar with, be sure that you work with a doctor who you trust and who takes the time to discuss all your options. It will also be important for your physician to understand your post-procedure quality of life goals, as this will help you and your doctor assess side effect risks for each procedure and which one will provide you with the best possible outcomes.
5) Talk about it – Being diagnosed with a serious disease like prostate cancer can be overwhelming. Understanding just how you feel about each of the benefits and risks of each of the options you are considering is key to being confident and comfortable with whatever decision you make. Talking about the benefits and risks of each option with your provider, loved ones, and others who have faced the same decision is a major step in the process of reaching the decision that is right for you. Additionally, consider cancer support groups, both locally and nationally, which may help you learn from past patients’ experiences and connect with men who are at a similar stage in their recovery process.
Support groups & mentorships:
- Us TOO International | 1-800-808-7866 | www.ustoo.org
- MaleCare | https://malecare.org/support-groups-help-men/
- ZERO The End of Prostate Cancer | https://zerocancer.org/get-support/mentor/
- Cancer Support Community | https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/prostate-cancer
- Imerman Angels | https://imermanangels.org/
- Cancer Hope Network | https://www.cancerhopenetwork.org/
- American Cancer Society: What is Prostate Cancer?
- American Society of Clinical Oncologists Cancer.net: Prostate Cancer: Stages and Grades
- Prostate.net: What are the Benefits of Using mpMRI Before Prostate Biopsy?
- Prostate Cancer Research UK: Treatments
Interested in a helpful list of steps to follow after receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis?
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