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Getting in the Right Mindset for Choosing Your Treatment Options

You’ve just learned you have prostate cancer, and now your doctor is discussing the different treatment options. You’re hearing about prostatectomy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and your head is starting to spin.

Take a deep breath, and consider how to get in the right headspace to make an informed decision about the treatments that might follow. These decisions can have a profound effect on your life. That can include life expectancy along with the side effects that prostate cancer treatment can inevitably bring.

Educate yourself about prostate cancer

For the absence of doubt, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 and have endured both hormone therapy and radiotherapy, which to date has been successful. I’m no longer on any form of treatment, but I’m not one to say I’ve beaten cancer! Perhaps it’s superstition, but I’m keeping a beady eye open in case my unwelcome guest should make a most unwelcome return.

When you’re first diagnosed with a serious illness, you may have little knowledge about the condition. It may be one almighty shock, so once you have picked yourself up, I think it's good to educate yourself.

Today that is not so hard. I know many, particularly in the medical profession, who frown on Google Doctor, but for the first time in history medical laymen can readily access available treatment options. This includes potential benefits and risks along with all the side effects.

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Find support, and understand treatment side effects

There are also great support groups, like this website, where people share their lived experiences. Seek multiple opinions to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of your situation. Educate yourself and listen to your doctors and nurses. I’ve always found this quite empowering and a way of having some control or agency over my condition. It puts you in the driving seat. Perhaps it’s just me, but I found that a comfort.

Living with cancer is also about how you want to live your life. All prostate cancer treatments can come with side effects, and some require lifestyle changes. Try to choose options that align with your priorities. This is much easier said than done, because as every doctor will tell you, individuals respond to treatments in different ways.

For some, their side effects will be tolerable, but for others they may be unbearable. I was on hormone therapy for three long years. I found it unpleasant but not unendurable. But if my cancer were to return, I would have to think long and hard as to whether I would go down that road again.

Treatments are always changing

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer for men in the United States, and there are always new treatment and treatment regimens coming down the track. So when it comes to educating yourself, there is lifelong learning involved.1

My wife used to call me the persistent patient. I was always asking questions of my doctors to try and get a better understanding of my condition and what treatments were likely to be best for me. I never hesitated when it came to clarifying my knowledge. I wanted to learn all about proposed treatments, their implications, and the expected outcomes.

Questions to consider asking a doctor

This year I will be 70. I remember in my youth doctors were seen as almost God-like creatures and asking for second opinions was not something my parents did. Times have changed: If you're uncertain about a recommended treatment, get a second opinion. Different perspectives can provide valuable insights.

Here's a short list of questions that might prove useful:

  • What treatments would you suggest for treating my cancer?
  • What other options are available?
  • What are the pros and cons of each treatment?
  • What are the predominant side effects?
  • Do I need to make a quick decision on my treatment regime?
  • How effective is my treatment likely to be?
  • Is my cancer likely to return following treatment?
  • What help can I get to manage side effects?

Trust your instincts

I once heard a story about a man who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and took the extraordinary decision not to tell his family. He even omitted to tell his wife. Frankly, without my wife I’m not sure how I would have got through it all. So don’t just discuss your options with your doctor. If you feel comfortable, talk with your partner, talk with your family, and let them know what is going on. You may want their input and their emotional support.

Money is likely to play a role here and can form part of your decision-making process. You’ll need to consider the financial implications of any treatment together with your insurance coverage.

Hopefully you will build a trusting relationship with your oncologist, but also trust your instincts. No one knows you better than you do. If you have a strong feeling about a particular treatment option, discuss it with your healthcare team. They can provide guidance based on their expertise, but your instincts and feelings matter, too.

Every person's experience is different

Remember, every individual's situation is unique, and these tips are meant to provide general guidance. Consult with your doctors for personalized advice based on your specific circumstances.

Getting closely involved in your treatment is empowering and can have a positive phycological effect on how you deal with this pernicious disease.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ProstateCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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