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Your Loved One Was Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer… Now What?

September 26, 2022

“I have cancer.” Three words you hope to never hear from a loved one. For many, though, cancer is a reality – whether you are the patient or caregiver.

When it comes to men, prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men the United States. Referred to as a silent killer because patients often do not have symptoms in early stages, men who are 65 and older account for about 60 percent of all prostate cancer cases diagnosed. In Texas, an estimated 16,966 new cases of prostate cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2022, and 2,306 men will die from the disease.

However, if prostate cancer is detected early, patients have a nearly 100 percent chance of survival after five years.

As a caregiver to someone with prostate cancer, it can be challenging to know how to support both the emotional and physical needs of your loved one.

With September serving as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Kyle Keyes, M.D., urology physician at Texas Urology Specialists–Austin Midtown and Round Rock, addresses how caregivers can provide the support and understanding their loved one will need while fighting prostate cancer.

What would you tell a caretaker or spouse who recently found out their partner/family member was diagnosed with prostate cancer?

I would tell the caretaker of someone who was newly diagnosed with prostate cancer that knowledge is 90 percent of the battle.

Use all the tools and data points available to know what is going on with the cancer. Be open with your partner or family member and discuss their life goals to determine which treatment approach is best.

How can caretakers learn more about prostate cancer and what lies ahead?

The best way to understand prostate cancer is to educate yourself. If you know of others who have experienced cancer as a patient or caregiver, ask about their experiences and recommendations. While online resources can provide context about prostate cancer, consulting with your physician or a board- certified urologist, radiation or medical oncologist can help you properly understand next steps and not misinterpret information.

What are the various treatments and therapies available for prostate cancer, and what should a caregiver expect in terms of side effects and recovery?

Treatment options vary depending on how advanced the prostate cancer is and if it has spread to other body parts. Most prostate cancers are small, with little to no symptoms. Active surveillance should be the first consideration for many prostate cancer cases. This cancer has a slow progression, and we have good methods to track and catch the cancer before it spreads.

There are a multitude of ways to treat prostate cancer, including surgery and radiation. Both options come with side effects and risks. Therefore, the biggest question should be whether to watch the cancer or do something about it. Surgery can be a three-to- six-month recovery, with most men living a good quality of life afterwards. Radiation tends to be very well tolerated but can have side effects years later. Other treatment options may include proton therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, vaccine treatment, immunotherapy, cryotherapy, and palliative medicine.

As a caregiver, what questions should I ask the medical team?

Learning more about prostate cancer itself – treatment options, side effects, and recovery time – can help you support your loved one when they need to make important decisions. Other questions to consider when talking to the medical team might include:

  • What are the risks of just watching the cancer?
  • What are the chances this cancer could spread in the next five or 10 years?
  • What are the risks of surgery and/or radiation? Are they permanent?
  • What happens if the cancer comes back despite surgery and/or radiation?

The role of a caregiver is one of the most important in a cancer patient’s journey. Texas Oncology’s care teams can help provide a variety of resources and support services to address your loved one’s needs and ensure they are getting the best standard of care possible.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.