This page is for anyone who is close to a man with prostate cancer, whether you're a partner, family member or friend. 

Supporting someone with prostate cancer

If you’re close to a man with prostate cancer you’re likely to want to support him and be there for him. Research suggests that family and friends who offer emotional and practical support may help men deal better with the daily challenges of having prostate cancer.

Doing something to help might also ease your own feelings of distress and help you feel more in control. But be aware of your limits and recognise that you don’t have to do everything. Could other friends or family help out with some things? Social services and voluntary organisations can also be good sources of support.

It is not unusual for men with prostate cancer to feel worried or low. Dealing with a diagnosis of cancer, having treatment and managing side effects can be challenging. Men with prostate cancer and their partners have a higher risk of depression and anxiety. And men on hormone therapy may feel more emotional than usual.

If you notice that your loved one is feeling very down, worried or is finding it hard to cope, encourage him to speak to his doctor or nurse. There are treatments and support available.

What can I do to help?
All men with prostate cancer are different and what helps one may not be right for another.

Talking about it
Many men with prostate cancer value being able to talk to those close to them about how they are feeling. It can help get things out in the open and lift their spirits. There is no right or wrong thing to say – sometimes you might just need to listen. Macmillan Cancer Support has information about how to talk to someone with cancer.

You and your loved one might not always want to or feel able to talk. Some people find they need some support to open up and express how they are feeling. Talking to someone else, such as a friend, health professional or counsellor might be helpful, either together or separately.

And remember, you will be dealing with your own feelings and may also need time to talk about them.

What if he doesn’t want to talk?
Some men prefer to cope on their own, and don’t want to talk about things, or want any outside help.

You might find this frustrating or upsetting. But try to remember that he might not see things the same way as you. Even if you think that he needs some practical help or should be talking about his emotions, he might feel that he’s coping fine.

Try to help him think about what he wants, rather than telling him what he should do. You can do this by asking questions or saying what you think and asking for his response.

Some men may be going through the process of accepting they have prostate cancer. Their initial response could be disbelief, denial and shock. They might find it hard to take in information about their cancer or accept help.

You could let him know that you are there for him if he needs anything. Be specific about the kind of support you can offer – practical as well as emotional. You might need to give him space to come to terms with things in his own time or deal with things in his own way.

Just being there
For some men just having family and friends around is enough. You don’t have to talk about prostate cancer. Just chatting about normal things and doing some everyday activities together might help. Encourage your loved one to see family and friends and to keep up with social activities and hobbies if he feels up to it.

Talking to health professionals

Some men find it helps to have someone with them at their appointments. It’s hard to take everything in, ask questions and make notes all at the same time. Having someone else to remember and to ask questions can be useful.

Health professionals involved in supporting your loved one may not be able to discuss his diagnosis, treatment or care with you, unless he gives them permission. If he is happy for you to know about these things then he needs to let his doctor or nurse know. He can request this for anyone – whether that’s a partner, family member or friend.

Some people don’t feel confident talking to health professionals. Knowing more about prostate cancer might help you feel more confident. And if you have any questions, ask. Sometimes health professionals will invite you to ask questions. But if they don’t, it could be because they assume you would ask if you had any.

You also have the right to information and support for yourself. If you don’t feel that you can talk to the doctors or nurses treating your loved one, make an appointment with your GP to discuss where you can get support for yourself.

Relationships and family life

Prostate cancer can change the normal pattern of your life and affect relationships, friendships and roles within the family.

You might find that your plans get interrupted or your priorities change after a diagnosis of prostate cancer. If a man with prostate cancer has side effects, like tiredness, his normal family role might change – for example, others may have to take on more tasks at home.

People find that they go through stages of adjusting and develop new ways of thinking about life and relationships. You might find some of these ideas can make life easier:

  • learning more about prostate cancer together
  • talking about things
  • making sure that you get all the support you need as a family.

Try to make sure that you make time for family activities, such as holidays and enjoying time together. Your loved one may not feel up to some activities that you have done together in the past but it could be an opportunity to try something new.

Talking to children
It can be difficult and upsetting to talk to children or grandchildren about cancer. It usually helps to be honest with them. Children can often sense that something is wrong even if they don’t understand it. Keeping things from them might only make them worry more. What they’ll need to know and how they will react will depend on their age. Drawings or books may help younger children understand. While you may need to encourage teenagers to ask questions.

Macmillan Cancer Support has more information about talking to children about cancer. You could also ask your GP or specialist nurse for advice. You could also ask your GP or specialist nurse for advice. The charity Winston’s Wish has information about talking to children about serious illness.

If you are a partner

Prostate cancer and its treatments can affect a man’s sex life. If you are a partner of a man with prostate cancer, you might need particular support for relationship and sexual issues.

Sex and relationships
Some partners feel very distressed and may become anxious and depressed. This can affect how you feel about sex. You may go through:

  • changes to how you feel about yourself – if your partner has a low sex drive this might make you feel less desirable or attractiv
  • feeling frustrated or unsatisfied if your sex drive is higher than your partner’s or you are having less sexual contact
  • anger or sadness at the loss of how things used to be
  • guilt for still having sexual feelings.

Your own desire for sex may change after your partner’s diagnosis and during treatment. For example, if you are feeling anxious, you may have less interest in sex. Changes in your relationship, such as changed roles, may also affect how you feel about sex. You may be dealing with your own health problems or sexual problems.

Many partners don’t talk about their own feelings because they want to protect their loved one. But it is also important to get some support for yourself, perhaps without your partner. Talking to other partners who are experiencing the same thing or getting some counselling may improve things.

Some men may distance themselves from close relationships because they feel uncomfortable with changes to their bodies and the impact of treatment on their sex life. But this doesn’t mean that they no longer care for you.

Watch real life stories of men talking about their own experiences.

Gay and bisexual men
Prostate cancer affects gay and bisexual men in many of the same ways as heterosexual men and their partners but there can be some other issues too. Read more in our booklet, Prostate facts for gay and bisexual men.


Being a carer

A carer is someone who provides unpaid support to a family member or friend who could not manage without this help. Caring can include helping with day-to-day tasks such as housework, providing transport and emotional support.

Some people close to men with prostate cancer also help provide medical and personal care. For example, help with catheter care after surgery, organising medicines, ordering incontinence pads or help with washing or dressing.

If you are providing this type of care, make sure you’re getting all the help you are entitled to. Community, district and Macmillan nurses can offer medical care at home and give you and your loved one advice about ways to look after yourself. You might also be able to arrange to have other care staff visit you at home. You can arrange this through your GP or other health professionals.

The levels of care that a man with prostate cancer needs may change. You might not have needed help or assistance to support him in the past, but if you find you are having a bad week or caring is becoming too much, get advice and support from health professionals, or call our Specialist Nurses.

Caring can be tiring and sometimes stressful so remember to look after yourself.

Looking after yourself

The diagnosis of a loved one can have a big impact on your life, so make sure you look after yourself. This is important for your sake and so that you can support your loved one.

Each person’s response to being close to a man with prostate cancer will be different. But you may be dealing with some of the feelings below.

  • shock, powerlessness, loss
  • sadness, frustration, uncertainty
  • worry, fear, anger, stress

You may find these feelings fade over time. Or you might continue to have these feelings even if the prostate cancer has been successfully treated.

Some people close to a man with prostate cancer go on to develop anxiety or depression. If you are feeling very down, worried or are finding it hard to cope, there are treatments and support available. Speak to your GP, or call our Specialist Nurses.

Uncertainty about the future
It’s natural to find it difficult and upsetting to think about the future – particularly if your loved one has advanced prostate cancer. Many men with prostate cancer will have successful treatment and live with cancer for many years, although the outlook for other men won’t be as good.

You might find that making plans helps you feel more prepared for what the future may hold, and reassured about the future for your family.

What can help?

Be kind to yourself

Try to go easy on yourself, and don’t expect to have all the answers. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with your emotions. Everyone has their own way of coping.

Some people struggle to deal with things on their own and to be strong for their loved one or their family. It might be difficult to talk to the man you are supporting about how you are feeling – especially if he is dealing with his own emotions. You could get some separate support for yourself, especially if you have different needs and concerns. This could be in the form of talking to a friend or going to a support group.

Getting information
Finding out more about prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment and side effects can help reduce feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. For example, if you know what side effects your loved one might get, you can prepare for the impact these might have. It could also help you know what to expect from treatment, how successful it might be and how long recovery might take.

Getting support
You could talk to your own GP, practice nurse, or any other health professionals about how you’re feeling. As a partner or family member of a man with prostate cancer you are entitled to discuss your own needs and concerns with the health professionals treating or supporting him.

Your friends and family can provide a good support network. This might be practical support or having someone to talk to about how you feel. Not all of your friends or family will understand what you are going through, but you might just want to chat about other things.

Don’t feel that you have to cope with everything on your own. Try to accept help from others where it is offered. People often want to help. Think of friends or family who might be able to help with certain tasks. For example, driving to appointments, collecting prescriptions, doing some shopping or cleaning, or looking after the children for a few hours.

  • What else can help?  

    Do something nice for yourself at least once a week. You could have lunch with a friend, visit the library or go to the shops. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you focus on yourself for a short time.

    You could try writing down how you are feeling, for example in a diary. Write about something that is worrying you or think about the emotions you are going through. Try this for 15-20 minutes for three days in a row. You might find this helps you to understand your feelings better.

    Doing some gentle exercise, such as walking, swimming or gardening can improve your mood and help you cope with any stress.

    Draw on your own strengths. Think about a time or situation in the past that was difficult, but that you got through. Think about what worked then and how you might be able to use these strengths now.

Your health

People close to those with cancer can sometimes find that their own health gets worse. This might be because of stress, because they have become a full-time carer, or because they don’t have the time to look after themselves properly.

Make sure you look after your own health. If you are feeling unwell, tired or down, talk to your GP.

If you’re close to someone with cancer you might get particularly tired, especially if you are caring for them. Get support for any anxiety you are feeling as this can be linked to increased tiredness. For example, you might have problems sleeping because you are worrying a lot.

There are simple changes you can make to your lifestyle to boost your energy levels.

  • Eat regular meals and healthy snacks to keep up your energy levels throughout the day.
  • Regular exercise will make you feel less tired and give you more energy.
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep – having a regular routine and avoiding naps during the day will help with this.
  • Stress uses up a lot of energy so try to reduce your stress by taking time to relax each day.

What can help?
Get support and information about managing the side effects of prostate cancer treatment. They might have an impact on your life as well as his. For example, if you are a partner of a man with prostate cancer and he gets up a lot at night to go to the toilet, you might be woken each time.

If you’re providing care for a man with prostate cancer, make sure you are not taking on too much. This could leave you feeling exhausted. Try getting help from family and friends.

Learn some ways to relax or manage stress. This might help if you are feeling down or finding it difficult to sleep. Some people find yoga or meditation helpful. Look for classes at your local GP surgery, adult education centre or through charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, Carers UK or Carers Trust.


Updated June 2015 | Due for review June 2017

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