Diagnosis Prostate Cancer – Insights and Tips for Family Caregivers

Men and their family members fear it, with good reason. Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer in men after skin cancer.

In fact, more than 2 million men are survivors of prostate cancer.

The American Cancer Society projects that in 2015 there will be 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer and 27,540 deaths from prostate cancer.

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in life so there is cause to learn more about the disease, its risk factors and potential ways to prevent becoming a statistic.

The average age for prostate cancer diagnosis is 66 and it is rare in men under 40.

There is some good news, though. Despite the fear, prostate cancer is treatable and the majority of men diagnosed with this cancer do not die from it.

Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?

The exact cause of this cancer is unknown; therefore, a way to prevent it from occurring isn’t known either.

There are risk factors for developing prostate cancer that continue to be studied by researchers. They include:

  • Age
  • Environment
  • Smoking
  • Race
  • Family history

Your senior loved one can work to change some lifestyle factors that may be linked to lowering the possibility of developing prostate cancer including:

  • Diet – eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables each day, at least 2½ cups a day
  • Physical activity – get more exercise or at least move around more
  • Weight – achieve a healthy weight

Many men take supplements and herbal remedies in the hopes of preventing prostate cancer but at this time there is no scientific proof that they have any effect in prevention.

Screening for prostate cancer is a topic that should be discussed with your senior’s doctor. Together you can decide if screening is appropriate and helpful for your particular situation.

New Study Brings Hope in Prostate Cancer Treatment

If your senior has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, he likely underwent treatment for the cancer. The usual treatment depends on the stage of the cancer found (from stage I to IV) and other factors, including your senior’s age and other medical conditions present.

Treatment can include, depending on the stage, surveillance of PSA levels, prostatectomy, radiation, hormone therapy and other symptom-relieving measures.

Often only one treatment modality is given at a time. However a recent study presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that when testosterone suppressing medications (hormones) are given in combination with chemotherapy agents, the survival rate for metastatic prostate cancer is greatly improved.

Some scientists have called this combined treatment modality a ‘game changer’. It was reported that the survival statistics “is an almost unprecedented improvement in median survival.”

As with other disease processes, researchers work diligently to find not only the best treatments, prevention options, causes and but even cures. Clinical trials have become vital to determining how a disease occurs, what needs to occur to correct the condition, what medications are most effective and if a cure is viable.

If your senior has the opportunity to join a clinical trial, you might want to encourage them to do so.

Doctors are working with people diagnosed not only with prostate cancer but other cancers and disease processes like Alzheimer’s to get them connected to the latest clinical trials. Through the trial, a person diagnosed with prostate cancer has access to a potential life changing medication or treatment. Their medical data and response to treatments help others as well as themselves.

Tips for Caregivers When Caring for Someone with Cancer

If your senior loved one is diagnosed with prostate cancer or other cancer, there are things that you can do to help them. Here are a few suggestions that might help you cope with a cancer diagnosis as a caregiver.

  1. Learn as much as you can about the disease and the treatments prescribed. You and your senior loved one will have to make decisions about treatment options and being fully informed will make the decisions easier. The American Cancer Society has a great amount of resources available.
  2. You may need to perform more hands-on care when giving treatment than you are used to as a caregiver. Be sure you understand the details and ask questions of your healthcare team so that the treatment is provided appropriately for best recovery.
  3. Emotional responses to a diagnosis of cancer will vary from person to person as well as caregivers. You and your senior may feel sad, depressed, angry, fearful or anxious. Talking about your feelings with your senior or another trusted person will help you deal with your feelings. Sometimes behavior may change in your senior loved one as a result of these emotions. Coping with their mood or behavior changes, understanding the root cause and helping them overcome their fears is an important part of cancer caregiving. You both may choose to attend a support group to talk over your feelings with others in your shoes. You could both find benefits to these groups whether in person, via social media or online chat groups.
  4. Drugs prescribed for cancer therapy often have side effects. Some treatments also have serious side effects. Be aware of what could happen, how to relieve the side effects and what foods could help soothe their symptoms. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist whenever a new drug is added to get the information you need.
  5. Sleep disruption can be a problem for your senior and ultimately you too. There are things you both can do to help prepare for sleep, make the most of your hours of sleep and make the sleeping environment more conducive to sleep, as we discussed in this article.
  6. Eating can sometimes be affected in a person with cancer, especially with some treatment options. Depending on your senior, they may need softer foods that are easier to chew, smaller meals given more frequently, room temperature food, less odorous foods, fewer spicy foods or a supplement/meal replacement to get enough nutrition to fight the disease. It is not uncommon for some to become dehydrated and fluids should be offered frequently throughout the day. Keep the dining environment relaxing, sit with your loved one and don’t force them to eat if they don’t feel like it but try again later.
  7. A lack of energy is often a result of cancer and its treatment. This fatigue can affect their ability to care for themselves and do activities of daily living such as grooming. It can also lead to falling. Besides making the home free of fall hazards such as loose throw rugs, electric cords and inappropriate foot wear, planning activities to prevent over tiring your senior loved one can help to prevent falling. Plan the day so the activities are evenly spread out, don’t try to do too much at one time. Put the things they need within their reach and have a bit more help available to reduce tasks they have to do during the time they are fatigued.
  8. Join a clinical trial. Research can help stop cancer and you can help further research when you join a clinical trial. Clinical trials can assess if new medications will help prevent the spread or slow your cancer from spreading to other parts of your body.

As a caregiver, it is helpful to keep your network strong to help you deal with the stresses of both your loved one’s diagnosis and the care you are providing.

You may need more help while your senior undergoes treatment or to help cope with the effects of the diagnosis and treatment. You need extra support too and your network of family, friends and helpers will be there to support you when you need it the most.