Coming to terms with prostate cancer

You may be feeling angry, sad, anxious, or depressed about having prostate cancer. This is normal. Learn how to deal with the ups and downs, and where to go for help.

Men respond in all kinds of ways to living with prostate cancer, and it’s all very personal. Some men want to yell. Some want to cry. Others are completely silent. Coming to grips with a prostate cancer diagnosis and getting the support you need are as important as your medical treatment.

What are some normal feelings after a prostate cancer diagnosis?

Between diagnosis, treatment, finances and relationships, there’s a lot that might keep you up at night. And as worries pile up, it’s normal to feel stressed out or anxious.

Right now, you might have persistent thoughts like:

What if the treatment doesn’t work?

What if the cancer comes back?

Why me?

These are all valid, important, and personal questions. And everyone’s different, but you may experience a wide range of feelings, including:

  • Shock and anger.

  • Denial.

  • Worry.

  • Loneliness.

  • Stress and anxiety.

  • Depression.

  • Feeling like a burden on others.

Remember that you have people in your corner (like your doctor and care team, counselor, family, and friends) to help you work through these feelings. It’s OK to allow yourself to be upset and talk it out.

Counseling, support, and activities to reduce stress

If your feelings of stress or anxiety are becoming overwhelming, talk to your doctor or care team and they can guide you towards helpful solutions. You can also check out the useful resources below.

Beyond Blue

Confidential emotional support, 24 hours a day, by phone, chat or email

Cancer council

Confidential telephone information and support in each state and territory

How cancer can affect emotional health

On the prostate cancer journey, a variety of things can cause scattered emotions.

  • Sense of loss. Physical changes to your body, such as putting on weight, losing physical strength, or changes to your sex life could make you feel differently about yourself.

  • Diminished sense of manhood. Some men say a prostate cancer diagnosis or treatment makes them feel less of a man. Other times, men feel their role in the family has changed—for example, if they’ve had to stop working.

  • Mood swings. Some treatments, like hormone therapy, can make you feel a wide range of emotions in a short amount of time. This can mean getting teary-eyed one moment and extremely angry the next.

It’s important to know that you’re not alone, and there are many people (like friends and family) in your corner to support you. Speak to your doctor, care team, a counselor, or a prostate cancer support group if you're feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling very down, your appetite has changed a lot, or you get angry more easily, these could be signs of depression.

What does depression feel like?

    Everyone’s different, but you may experience:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or empty. You feel down or irritated most of the day, nearly every day.

  • Loss of interest or apathy. You lose interest in doing things you used to enjoy, like going to movies, cooking, and seeing friends or family.

  • Feeling irritable or hostile. You engage in emotionally charged, aggressive behavior, and you don’t always know why.

    What else might I notice?

  • Change in appetite or significant weight change. Your weight and appetite are a lot less or a lot more than usual.

  • Sleep disturbances or fatigue. You are sleeping too little or too much, or feel low on energy which isn’t fixed by rest or sleep.

  • Alcohol or drug abuse. You drink more alcohol than before or start using or abusing drugs.

  • Risky or escapist behavior. You engage in reckless driving, compulsive gambling, or spending a lot of time at work or on sports.

You may have thoughts of death or suicide. If you're having these thoughts, it’s important to speak to someone immediately.

Beyond Blue

Contact Beyond Blue for 24-hour confidential support. Call on 1300 22 36 46 or visit their site.

Lifeline

For immediate help in a crisis, speak to a trained crisis supporter by calling 13 11 14 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), accessing online chat or texting.

Everyday steps you can take to get better

Everyone has their own way of dealing with prostate cancer. On a day-to-day basis, there are several things you can do to be more at ease and get better.

    Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Learn as much as possible about your prostate cancer treatment. Find out how your doctor plans to treat your cancer—including potential side effects—so you know your options and what to expect.

  • Make your follow-up appointments. Showing up to a doctor's appointment is essential, but it’s only one part of the visit. While you’re there, it’s important to tell your doctor or care team what’s really going on with you. They need your honest thoughts to give you the best care and keep watch over your progress. Your honesty can help them suggest good coping strategies or even prescribe a useful medication.

  • Get movingexercise does great things to your body and mind. Even gentle walking can improve your mood.

  • Think about what you eat and drink. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can give you an energy boost.

  • Take care of yourself. When you feel up to it, learn some techniques to manage stress and relax, like listening to music, yoga or breathing exercises.

  • Join a cancer support group. Your healthcare provider may be able to connect you to a local support group.

  • Focus on other things too. Set fun goals and things to look forward to.

  • Talk to someone you trust, especially when things are tough.

  • Take a break—you don’t need to solve every challenge today, so give yourself some downtime.

  • All good things take time, start with small habits which help build momentum and more change.

  • Break ‘rules’ you might impose on yourself – for example, run the dishwasher again if you haven’t had the energy to unstack it straight away.

  • Get out and do something you enjoy with a friend.

If you’ve tried some of the things above and still feel bad, talk to a professional for advice and support.

Who can help you get better?

Your doctor or care team

Talk to your nurse, doctor, or someone else in your care team. They can help you understand your prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment, and side effects, listen to your concerns, and put you in touch with other people who can help.

They can also help you understand what services are covered by your insurance plan, if you have one.

Trained counselors

At a time when you have so much on your shoulders, someone who’ll listen without judgment is critical. Counselors are trained to listen and can help you to find your own ways to deal with things. Many hospitals have counselors or psychologists who specialize in helping people with cancer—ask your care team at the hospital if this is available or if they know of services in the community you can access at low or no cost to you. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a counselor, or you can seek out a private counselor yourself.

To find out more information and details for local counsellors, contact the Australian Counselling Association.