Receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer can trigger emotional and physical impacts, while the medical decisions and treatments that follow can be overwhelming too. Someone with a loved one facing prostate cancer may feel at a loss for ways to help.
Herbert Ruckle, MD, FACS, chair of Loma Linda University Health’s Urology Department, says there are many ways to offer care and support to those with prostate cancer. During September’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Ruckle discusses several approaches to help your loved one throughout his prostate cancer journey.
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“There is a need to reach out to men differently because of their thought processes,” he says. “Men tend to deny health issues, are not be as likely to seek care for symptoms or problems, and handle problems in isolation.”
He says the following three actions can help ensure your loved one with prostate cancer feels supported by your involvement in his health journey.
Take on lifestyle changes together
Good health is a significant factor in the course and outcomes of treatments for prostate cancer, Ruckle says. "A patient who is stronger and healthier can take more in the way of treatment, and cancer outcome often depends on treatment intensity,” he says. “You don’t want baseline health to compromise the cancer outcome.”
So, if your loved one is receptive to making lifestyle changes to boost their health, Ruckle says you can provide company and reinforcement. A central tenant of good health involves physical exercise — this can be as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood, Ruckle says. Walking with your loved one provides you both with opportunities to talk, experience fresh air and sunshine, and feel connected to the surroundings.
Another tenant of good health involves diet; Ruckle encourages a plant-based diet, low in simple carbohydrates. Cooking healthy meals with or for your loved one can help him feel better. If you seek guidance about meals to prepare that can best benefit your loved one with prostate cancer, consider consulting a nutritionist about ideas and options. Registered dietitians at Loma Linda University Cancer Center are available to discuss your nutrition wants and needs.
Additionally, Ruckle says you can provide support if your loved one wants to quit smoking — a major risk factor for prostate cancer. If you smoke as well, one of the best things you can do to support your loved one is to quit with him. Otherwise, help him enroll in smoking cessation programs or support groups. “Smoking can dictate the level of prostate cancer one has and their ability to fight it,” Ruckle says.
Offer him a second set of eyes and ears
Sometimes patients have difficulty retaining the information relayed to them during medical appointments, Ruckle says. Difficulty processing new medical information, especially when unexpected, negative, or technical, is common in prostate cancer patients, he says. For this reason, Ruckle says it is critical to be present during your loved one's medical appointments to observe and listen to the information being shared.
“Having someone else there who hears it, sees it, and helps ask questions during the visit is key for information gathering and the decision-making process,” Ruckle says.
Regarding prostate cancer, Ruckle says patients may need to consider many treatments based on their circumstances and preferences. As a loved one, you can help gather all that information required to help make informed, thoughtful decisions about the treatment course.
“With prostate cancer, it’s about weighing risks and benefits and where you are on the timeline of life,” Ruckle says. “Having someone close to the patient and who knows them well can help sort through those considerations and decide which risks are worth taking.”
Take care of yourself too
Taking good care of a loved one also entails caring for yourself, Ruckle says. "You can't be a good caregiver unless you are healthy and rested."
As the loved one of someone with prostate cancer, you may experience significant stress when aspects of your lifestyle shift the accommodate the illness. Therefore, Ruckle advises caregivers to express their needs honestly and stay receptive to new forms of support. Performing self-care by relaxing the mind and body with activities like reading or mindfulness can help you recharge physically, emotionally, and mentally. Faith-based activities like worship or prayer can provide spiritual strength and support for some. Engaging in forms of talk therapy with someone you trust or a professional who is not integrated into your immediate social network can also be relieving.
Experts at Loma Linda University Health are committed to providing compassionate, comprehensive, and personalized care along every step of your prostate cancer journey. Learn more about prostate cancer screening and treatment options online or call 909-558-6600.