Being diagnosed with prostate cancer can be a shock and it may take some time to adjust to the change in your life. You may feel like you need to put on a brave face, but inside feel scared, worried, stressed, helpless or even angry. It’s OK to show people how you’re really feeling and ask for help if you need it. Health psychologist Dr Emily Robson, who works in our Health Information team, answers some of your questions and concerns about coping with the emotional fallout from prostate cancer.
There may be several times in your life when you experience ups and downs – this is normal and everyone feels low or anxious from time to time. But talk to your GP if you feel very low a lot of the time, if your sleep pattern or appetite changes, or if you get angry easily, as these could be signs of depression.
Anxiety and depression can be triggered by stressful or difficult situations, like being diagnosed with prostate cancer. If you’re having tests or treatment, you’ll probably have a lot on your mind. You may worry about how bad your cancer is or how your family will feel, or you may feel anxious about making a decision about treatment.
But there is treatment and support that could help if you think you’re depressed or struggling with anxiety, so speak to your GP.
Lots of things. If you have depression, your GP may prescribe you medication or refer you for talking therapy with a counsellor or psychologist. You could also try joining a support group or online community where men get together to share their experiences of having prostate cancer. You can ask questions, share worries and know that someone understands what you’re going through.
It may also help to set yourself some goals and things to look forward to, even if they’re only small. Look after yourself and try to make time to relax. Some men find listening to music or mindfulness can help. Keeping active is also a great way to lift your mood and improve your physical fitness. If you’re not used to exercising, start slow and pace yourself.
Remember, you may not find a quick fix and it could take some time before you start feeling better. Think about how you’ve coped with difficult situations in the past and try to use the same techniques to deal with your feelings this time.
It can be difficult to open up, whether to health professionals or people that you’re close to. We know that some men don’t like showing their emotions in front of their family or friends. But remember that prostate cancer can impact those around you, too. Your family and friends might be having difficult feelings as well, so talking about your own feelings could be helpful for everyone.
When talking to health professionals, try planning exactly what you’ll say before your appointment. You could write down a couple of points that you really want to talk about, so you don’t forget or get distracted. Try not to feel embarrassed or afraid to talk about things that are important to you. Remember that your doctor or nurse will have lots of experience talking to people with cancer about similar concerns. They’re trained to listen and provide you with support.
That can happen when you’re feeling down. It’s a good idea to try to keep some routine and structure to your day-to-day life to help manage this. It could help to write down a daily plan. Try thinking about some essential tasks you have to do each day and find time to fit them in. These might include showering and dressing, eating a well-balanced diet, doing exercise or some household chores, or spending time with your family and friends. Reward yourself with a small treat if you complete all your tasks for the day. This can help keep you feeling motivated.
It may take some time. Many men experience side effects like erectile dysfunction, incontinence, hot flushes and fatigue and these can be hard to deal with. But there is treatment and support available, so speak to your medical team if you’re worried. Our online 'How to manage' guides have lots of tips on dealing with side effects and so may help you feel more in control.
If you feel well enough, try to carry on with things as normal. Spending time with your family and friends can make a big difference to the way you feel. It might also help to join our online community, where you can talk to others who are going through similar things. Knowing that you’re not alone in the way you feel can be reassuring.
Be patient and kind to yourself as you come to terms with changes in your life. It can be a long process and you may feel the loss of things that have changed. Writing down your thoughts each day is a good way to track how far you’ve come. Or you can contact our Specialist Nurses for more support.