September 23, 2016
Prostate cancer – The human side

by Conrad Nedd MD

What is it like to find out that you have prostate cancer? Imagine you are a 57-year-old man visiting his doctor for the results of your check-up. You took time off work for the first visit, then for blood tests. After all, time is money and a man has to provide for his family, but you finally agreed it was overdue. Years slipped by unnoticed, while you secretly dreaded the thought of that prostate exam.{{more}} You even attended your follow-up visit to receive the results of those routine tests and everything was good, except for the PSA, which is elevated. Your doctor arranged for you to see a urologist to have a prostate biopsy, in order to explain the changes. The samples were sent off to the lab and now you are sitting facing the doctor again. You hear words like “…your biopsy results show that your prostate, cells have become malignant, which means you have prostate cancer.”

Being told you have prostate cancer evokes physical and emotional responses typical of a crisis. How would you react? Maybe with a blank stare of disbelief, while your thoughts race back home to your family. Some may immediately hang their heads with teary eyes, while they search for the answers to the haunting question: “Why me?”. The emotional turbulence which follows bad news includes the wide spectrum of responses, which may include shock, disbelief, denial, guilt, loss, loneliness, anxiety, depression, withdrawal and uncertainty.

While all these responses are normal, research shows there is an association between a patient’s response to bad news and communication practice. It is the art of effective communication which allows the care provider to prepare a patient to receive what is often devastating news. It creates an enabling environment where a care provider can listen to the concerns and questions of the patient, along with relatives and offer suitable options for care and treatment. It also allows family and friends to offer much needed support, providing a strong framework for coping with this crisis.

Effective communication is also our best strategy for awareness, prevention and early detection of prostate cancer. Increasing rates of prostate cancer in SVG is part of a global trend. The vast majority of patients with this diagnosis will survive past five years and many will even be cured after receiving appropriate treatment. The risk of early death is linked to late diagnosis of advanced disease. Prostate cancer carries a high human cost. Let us find ways of persuading all our men over 45 to seek care early. Find a way to communicate with your father, grandpa, uncle, brother, co-worker, client, friend or lover, that his prostate cancer risk has become a priority for both of you and start your own campaign.