Research has revealed just how varied the quality of prostate cancer care can be for men across the UK. So we are working with the NHS to make dramatic improvements and running an extensive prostate cancer education programme for health professionals. Adele Cooper, a Cancer Nurse Specialist, tells us how attending our recent Masterclass has made her better equipped to support men with prostate cancer and prostate problems.
"Around 80 per cent of my time is spent with patients who have prostate problems as I support several urology consultants dealing with prostate surgery, and referrals for radiotherapy and brachytherapy. It's a big role that I've been in for less than a year. Sometimes it can feel like I've been thrown in at the deep end a bit!
"However in the short time I've been in post I have taken over the running of two clinics including The Erectile Dysfunction Clinic which assesses and supports men who are struggling to get erections after having a radical prostatectomy (an operation to remove the prostate gland). I also provide counselling for men prior to their surgery so they are aware of the procedure and side effects of surgery, as well as what to expect after the operation.
"I'm currently studying for a Masters degree, and service improvement in The Erectile Dysfunction Clinic is the focus for my final research dissertation. So I was very fortunate to receive a bursary from Prostate Cancer UK to attend their prostate cancer Masterclass on service improvement.
"There were a number of speakers and seminars that really informed me, including Lorraine Grover's workshop on sex and relationships. Lorraine has such a wealth of experience in establishing her own erectile dysfunction clinics and managing patients with prostate cancer. So to learn from her experience, share ideas and even get her email address was great.
"It was also really helpful to speak to other staff in the workshop who question their confidence when talking to patients about sex and relationships and sometimes feel they lack knowledge or aren't equipped to answer their patients' questions. It made me realise how much I do know and how much support I had when I started in my clinic to over come any initial embarrassment. I think the Masterclass will have really helped those who weren't as lucky as me to overcome this themselves and put patients and their partners at ease so they can talk openly about difficulties in their sexual relationship and treatment options.
"We also heard Nigel Lewis Baker's prostate cancer story, which brought me to tears. Nigel believes he was living with prostate cancer for five years, without symptoms, before he was diagnosed. He's now resistant to treatments. Hearing from him brought home exactly why I'm here and the importance of staying up to date with the latest treatments and research opportunities, such as clinical trials, that could help my patients."
"The Masterclass was all about sharing and developing ideas and creating opportunities. It was a brilliant chance to absorb information and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more and make a bigger difference.
"At the beginning we were all told 'it's not just about knowledge but what you do with it' and I'm going to take everything I've learnt from Lorraine, Nigel and others I met to improve the experience of my patients. I want to ensure patients have a real choice of treatments suitable for their situation; that they learn how to use equipment effectively and know where they can go for support. Health professionals like me have a vital role in advancing care for patients. Through change and innovation we can keep making things better."