Being diagnosed with prostate cancer can be stressful and frightening. If you’re dealing with a prostate cancer diagnosis or treatment, you might have feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, frustration and uncertainty.
You are not alone. Many men, and those close to them, struggle with dealing with prostate cancer and will experience many of these feelings. You may find your feelings change over time. They may become more intense and you may experience a number of them at the same time. Being aware and having a better understanding of your thoughts and emotions can help you feel more in control.
Shock is often the first reaction to a prostate cancer diagnosis. You may feel numb, as if you aren’t feeling any emotion. It can feel like you are in a daze and to those around you, you appear quite calm. This can be your mind's way of protecting itself as you gradually come to terms your cancer diagnosis.
Being aware that this is a normal way to respond helps some men to accept and process their feelings. Over time these feeling often pass or change. If feelings of numbness or nothingness continue over time, you should let your medical team know. They are there to support you and get you the help you need.
Overwhelmed and confused
Being diagnosed with prostate cancer can come with an overwhelming amount of information to remember. It can feel like your life had been turned upside down, and it can be hard to take it all in. Especially when you’re seeing different doctors and clinicians, trying to understand your treatment options, and making decisions about what to do next.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused by information given at your appointments, speak to your GP or consultant. Let them know that you’re struggling with the amount of information you need to take in and process. They can give you the support you need. Or you could call our Specialist Nurses for more information and support.
Feeling overwhelmed, no matter what it’s about, can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. This can make it very hard to focus or make decisions. Talking about feeling overwhelmed and getting help to understand your options can help to control your thoughts and manage your feelings. You may find it helpful to read our information on tips on dealing with anxiety and stress.
It is normal to feel frightened. You might be feeling scared about what will happen to you, and what your future looks like. Talking about how you feel with those close to you can help you manage your thoughts and feelings. Or you could talk to someone who understands what you’re going through on our online community, through our one-to-one support service, or in a support group.
Some men are scared about possible side effects of their treatment. They may be worried about how it will change them, their image and how it might impact their everyday life. For example, hormone therapy can affect your mood and you may find you feel more emotional. There are treatments and support to help manage the side effects of prostate cancer and its treatments. Read our information on living with prostate cancer.
You may also be scared for your loved ones or have concerns about your financial situation. For more information on financial support, visit the Macmillan website.
If you’ve been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, you may have different fears and worries. Read our information on living with advanced prostate cancer for emotional and practical support for you and your family.
There are times when some men with prostate cancer feel lonely or distant from those around them. Your life can feel more uncertain than those around you which can leave you feeling isolated and alone. You might feel like this at different times during your diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes you still feel lonely after treatment has finished.
You may feel lonely for a number of reasons.
- The need to be brave. You feel you must be brave and don’t want to burden your family or friends.
- Avoiding social situations. You don’t feel mentally or physically up for socialising. Side effects such as fatigue can make going out and being social more difficult. Those around you may not realise that you feel lonely.
- Feeling emotionally distanced. You feel the people around you don’t understand what you are going through, and you don’t want to share how you’re feeling.
- Changes in your relationships. You may be feeling like roles have changed in your relationships. This can feel threatening to your identity as a man, partner, father or person. It can leave you feeling distant from those close to you.
- You live alone. Living on our own can add extra stress when you’re living with prostate cancer.
Coping with loneliness
Recognise that you’re feeling lonely and allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with it. It can be difficult, but getting out and connecting with others can help you to feel less lonely. You may want to:
- reach out and talk to your family or friends
- join one of our support groups
- talk to someone who’s been there through our one-to-one support
- if you live alone, invite family and friends to spend some time with you
- contact a support service, for example, a telephone friendship service.
Telephone friendship services
As you get older your social network may become smaller. This means that people in later life are especially vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness. You may be simply missing the enjoyment of a regular conversation, and just want a friendly chat with someone.
Telephone friendship services allow you to enjoy a chat with someone from the comfort of your home. Age UK runs a telephone friendship service – for more information, visit the Age UK website.
Re-engage also provide vital social connections for older people. They run free tea parties and a call companion service for older people who would like to have a friendly phone every week.
Read more about feeling lonely on the NHS website.
Loss of identity
Being diagnosed and living with prostate cancer can change how you see yourself within the world. Some men find they have an increased awareness of their own identity. You may be questioning your identity as a man – thinking about previous masculine qualities or your masculine identity. Some men with prostate cancer try to hold onto their masculine identity and ideals, and experience distress if they are unable to. Over time you may begin to accept a new masculine identity and have a new awareness of vulnerability and acceptance of weakness. Some men try and balance showing and controlling emotions. Showing or communicating your emotions isn’t a weakness, and is important.
Your prostate cancer treatment might change the way your body looks or works. Changes to your body can be difficult to come to terms with. They can include:
- weight loss or weight gain
- feeling weaker or less fit
- urinary problems (incontinence)
- changes in your sex drive (libido).
Some men struggle psychologically with dealing with these physical side effect. Common feelings include:
- feeling “less of a man”
- feeling like your body is letting you down
- feeling shame or embarrassment
- isolated or alone.
Managing these side effect can be hard. But there are treatments and support available to help manage side effects. If you find that side effects continue to impact your daily life, speak to your doctor or nurse. It might be possible to try a different treatment.
Speaking to someone who understands what you are going through can be a great way to manage your feelings and rebuild your confidence. At support groups, men get together to share their experiences of living with prostate cancer. Some groups also hold meetings online. You can ask questions, share worries and know that someone understands what you’re going through.
Some men with prostate cancer feel angry. This is a common feeling when men are first diagnosed. But you can also develop feelings of anger throughout your treatment and after treatment has stopped.
You may feel angry about:
- your diagnosis and that this had happened to you
- having treatment, and the changes treatment has had on your body
- how prostate cancer has changed you and your family’s lives.
It is normal to ask, “why me?” and be angry about your prostate cancer. You don’t have to hold it in and pretend everything is ok. Talk about your anger with family or friends. Or speak to your doctor, they can refer you for counselling.
Stress and anxiety
Being diagnosed and living with prostate cancer can be stressful and you may feel anxious at times. You may feel worried, tense and nervous.
Sadness and depression
Sadness is a normal and common response to being diagnosed with prostate cancer. You may also feel sad before or after treatment. Prostate cancer can change your day-to-day life, your body, or your plans for the future. It can take time for you and your loved ones to come to terms with these changes. For some, these feelings lessen or go away over time. But for others, these feelings can become stronger, and they can get in the way of daily life. This may be a sign of depression and you should speak to your doctor about these feelings.
Speaking to other men with prostate cancer can also be a great support. Our online community is a place to talk about whatever's on your mind – your questions, your ups and your downs. Anyone can ask a question or share an experience.
Updated November 2021 | Due for review November 2023
- Spendelow JS, Eli Joubert H, Lee H, Fairhurst BR. Coping and adjustment in men with prostate cancer: a systematic review of qualitative studies. J Cancer Surviv. 2018;12(2):155–68.
- Bowie J, Brunckhorst O, Stewart R, Dasgupta P, Ahmed K. Body image, self-esteem, and sense of masculinity in patients with prostate cancer: a qualitative meta-synthesis. J Cancer Surviv [Internet]. 2021 May 8 [cited 2021 Nov 11]; Available from: https://link.springer.com/10.1007/s11764-021-01007-9