For family members and caregivers: Supporting a loved one with prostate cancer

A prostate cancer diagnosis impacts not just the patient, but his close network of family, friends and caregivers as well. Though the emotions and experience will likely be different for the individual with cancer compared to his friends and family members, it doesn't make it any easier for them. It's never easy to hear that a spouse, a father, a brother or uncle has been diagnosed with the disease. When facing the long journey ahead, there are several pieces of advice and guidelines that can help you to best support your loved one.

Educate yourself

One of the best things that you can do upon hearing that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer is to do your research. As ZERO The End of Prostate Cancer explained, understanding as much as you can about prostate cancer, from diagnosis to screening to treatment options and beyond, can prove very beneficial in supporting the patient. A blind search on the internet, however, will not always yield the most positive results. Instead, find reliable sources – such as official organizations – that provide cancer information, talk with the doctors and ask a lot of questions. Moreover, each diagnosis of prostate cancer can be extremely diverse. As such, gaining a grasp on the stage, grade and prognosis of your loved one's cancer is important.

Prostate cancer doesn't just affect the patient, it impacts the whole family.Prostate cancer doesn't just affect the patient, it impacts the whole family.

When it comes time to make a decision on screening or treatment, knowing that you've done your research and can provide valuable knowledge on the risks, benefits and side effects of each, will help to ease the nerves of both you and your loved one with prostate cancer.

Find a support group

Often, it helps to know that you and your loved one are not alone. Finding a local support group can help to create a sense of community along your family's journey with prostate cancer, noted the Prostate Cancer Foundation. If there isn't one offered at your local hospital, consider checking community centers or libraries. Seeking out the guidance of a counselor can also be beneficial. And if you so choose, there are online support groups that can protect your identity but still provide valuable insight and comfort.

Become a team

As the family member of a man diagnosed with prostate cancer, now more than ever you will need to be there for one another and face the cancer as a team.

Accompany him to important doctors visits and take an active role in the decision making process. If there is a pressing question that he forgets to ask his care team, you'll be there to remind him, or vice versa. Take notes and keep reminders. If you'd rather not focus on the billing and finances, have him take over or hire someone who can. Gradually, you will each pick up on designated responsibilities and work efficiently as a team.

Advice from the National Cancer Institute deems it important to be open and honest when you are feeling stressed, anxious or concerned. Rather than letting it weigh you down or cause unnecessary added tension, talk about it. On the other hand, know your audience. If your loved one has indicated that he would rather not talk about the treatment or scheduled appointment next week, it is probably best to respect his wishes. The most important thing is that you are there for, and help each other.

Take care of your own health

Family members and close friends have to keep in mind that taking care of themselves is equally as important as taking care of their loved one with cancer. As a spouse or caregiver especially, it's easy to wear yourself thin and spend all of your time consumed by the diagnosis, treatment or recovery. At the end of the day, to be at your best to support your loved one with prostate cancer, you need to take care of yourself.

As a loved one or caregiver, make the prostate cancer journey a team effort.As a loved one or caregiver, make the prostate cancer journey a team effort.

That means getting enough sleep, eating right and ensuring that you are giving yourself enough down time to do the things that you enjoy. It also means accepting help, noted ZERO The End of Prostate Cancer. No one can do it all on their own so when neighbors, co-workers or friends offer to bring dinner, watch the kids or drive to an appointment, take them up on it. Sharing the responsibilities will help to relieve some of your stress and give you a much-deserved break.

Cancer is a scary thing and it can quickly change lives, so above all, spend time together doing what you love. Make family dinners, go to the movies, take trips and go on dates. Finding a new normal may take time, but when you face prostate cancer together, it's better for everyone.