Prostate Cancer Patients Can Benefit More from Psychotherapy

June 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer News

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Living with prostate cancer could be challenging, especially when you are not really informed and prepared for all the rigors or diagnosis, treatments, and side effects. Some patients even get on the depression level.

Well, if you are finding it difficult to deal with the fact that you have prostate cancer, then you may need an extra help. This comes through psychotherapy. Yes, this may do you a lot of good by increasing your perspective in life.

If this is achieved, then you are likely to get healed faster and better. Unfortunately, many men are not positive when it comes to participating in therapies. The following extract confirms this and calls for a better approach:

 When I was a graduate student in psychology, I worked at a cancer center. One of my responsibilities was to meet with new patients as they received, drip by drip over many hours, chemotherapy infusions. In one corner of the clinic, a woman I’ll call Lisa was battling breast cancer. Lisa’s friends had organized a complex and complete support tree for her, with meal delivery, dog walking, child care, and bill paying. Lisa snuggled into a quilt they had stitched for her. Lisa was never alone.

Nearby sat “Rick,” a sinewy, divorced man in his early 60s, fresh from his latest surgery for an aggressive cancer that had attacked his mouth, esophagus, and beyond. I was Rick’s only visitor. He hadn’t revealed his cancer to anyone, he said with grim pride, not even his grown children. He was going to get through the grueling treatment the same way he got through Vietnam: just “get it done.”

Psychotherapy was offered at no cost to patients at the nonprofit center. Rick made an appointment with me, then canceled it. He was happy to say hello when I stopped by his chair, but “therapy” was out of the question, even for a guy struggling with the potential loss of half his face, and perhaps his life.

The episode haunted me: Was teeth-gritting silence a culturally appropriate and functional coping mechanism, and my concern merely a reflection of female-centered values writ large by my too-enthusiastic inexperience? Thus began my quest to figure out how to get men like Rick to let me help them with the profound emotional implications of their physical ills.

What I discovered was a trail of research showing that men with cancer are offered psychological assistance far less often than women are, and that even when it is offered in the form of support groups or therapy, men are far less likely to participate.

It makes a kind of sense. Today’s cancer support network evolved as the result of breast cancer advocacy that found its voice and honed its political power beginning in the 1980s, after former first lady Betty Ford helped destigmatize the disease by revealing that she had breast cancer. Susan G. Komen for the Cure and a bevy of other cancer support groups also organized, raising both public consciousness and funds for research. Community cancer centers and American Cancer Society chapters soon joined academic institutions affiliated with the National Cancer Institute’s Comprehensive Cancer Center network in offering support groups, therapy, and social work to support all cancer patients.

Breast cancer, both in research and practice, has received a disproportionate share of attention, benefiting far more women than men with cancers of all kinds. I went to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed online database—the most comprehensive collection of published medical studies on earth—to compare breast cancer and prostate cancer, two diseases that are diagnosed in almost equal numbers each year in the U.S., and take a similar emotional as well as physical toll. As of May, published, peer-reviewed studies on “breast cancer and support” outnumbered those on “prostate cancer and support” by 56,000.

But here’s the rub: when researchers from the University of Cologne pooled the results of 37 well-designed studies of psychosocial support from cancer centers around the world, they found that men, when they did participate, benefited more. Much more. Nearly twice as much more, showing measureable reductions in symptoms of distress and a return to psychological well-being.

Some digging revealed that more than 1 in 3 previously psychologically healthy men—read “regular guys”—experience diagnosable symptoms of depression and anxiety during treatment of various forms of cancer. Those numbers seem to point to the need for therapy in some form, at least short-term, that would be palatable to men.

When cancer patients are asked about their emotional needs, most men reject “support” from medical professionals, seeking only “information.” In one such study, in the United Kingdom in 2006, a male melanoma patient summed it up in classic stiff-upper-lip: “Mind you,” he said, “I never pour my heart out to anyone really, but if I do feel a bit low, then I will have a chat with my wife.” That could work, of course, if the wife is up to it. But research points to serious overload in many spouses who find themselves playing psychologist to a sick husband. Yale School of Nursing researchers, in six major studies representing more than 400 couples, found that partners’ psychological levels of distress significantly exceeded that of the cancer patient himself.

A small survey published last year in the journal Psycho-Oncology further muddies the boulder-strewn waters that would advocate for self-sufficiency: among 35 prostate cancer patients, more than half agreed with the statement, “I should be able to take care of my problems by myself.” And yet, virtually the same percentage said, “I would be less depressed if I talked about my problems.”

A majority agreed with this statement, “I don’t want to become dependent on a therapist,” and, paradoxically, this one: “It is almost as important for my doctors to listen to me talk about my emotional problems as to cure my cancer.” Click here to read the full extract.

So, psychotherapy is still needed for men living with prostate cancer. The above extract confirms that men who participate in this therapy are better off psychologically than those without it.

Therefore, it becomes necessary to develop a means of encouraging more men to see  physical and psychotherapy as part of the treatment process that can help provide them achieve better help fast.

The extract above really revealed a lot of things and these should not be ignored by medical professionals and patients with prostate cancer.

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