Your mental wellness should be a priority from the time of your cancer diagnosis until long after treatment has finished. In fact, poor mental health has actually been shown to impact the outcomes of bladder cancer treatment, as well as patient survival rates (1). The opposite is also true; individuals with poor physical health are more likely to experience adverse mental health conditions (2). Therefore, mental health should not be taking a backseat to physical health while undergoing cancer treatment – they are both important, and neither should be neglected. A bladder cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. There will be psychological, emotional, social, and health hurdles to overcome every step of the way.
Here are some issues that bladder cancer patients may face which will have an important impact on mental health:
High recurrence rate
Bladder cancer is one of the cancers with the highest recurrence rate, which will understandably take a toll on the mental state of patients. Having to go for regular tests and scans can cause a lot of emotional distress. If you feel like you need more support than you are getting, it is important to talk to your doctor to see if they can recommend someone for you to talk to. There are social workers and psychologists specializing in helping people manage and live with chronic diseases such as cancer.
Treatment side effects
As mentioned in Side Effects, bladder cancer treatments will have many potential side effects which could affect your quality of life. Burning and irritation upon urination and incontinence can have an important impact on social life. Erectile dysfunction can be an important sexual issue faced by men after bladder cancer surgery. In addition to this, potential damage to the pelvic nerves can lead to loss of sexual feeling and orgasm. These side effects can be very challenging, and difficult to discuss with friends or family. Your doctor may be able to provide you with ways to manage these side effects, and can refer you to sexual therapists, physical therapists, or other specialists that may be helpful.
Bladder cancer is one of the most expensive cancers to treat due to its risk of recurrence – it requires monitoring with regular tests and scans, and may require to repeat treatment or start a new treatment. The Canadian Cancer Society offers a list of valuable resources for those concerned about the financial toll of bladder cancer. You can also talk to your healthcare team to receive recommendations for resources and support to help you navigate any financial concerns, create cost predictions, and develop a financial plan. Your team can also advise you about opportunities to receive financial assistance to help you cover the costs.
Bladder cancer does not end when treatment does. Having cancer is an experience that will profoundly impact you, your loved ones, and your life in general. Once treatment ends, it does not suddenly disappear from your life – its impact will leave a mark on you and those around you. The time after treatment may be difficult, because you no longer feel like you are actively doing something about your cancer, but this is an important time to come to terms with your diagnosis and your lived experience. You may also have important lifestyle changes to learn to live with, such as a neobladder. There is no right or wrong way to deal with being a cancer survivor, and you simply have to find the best course for yourself.
Most information taken from Fight Bladder Cancer.
(1) Pham, H., Torres, H., Sharma, P. (2019). Mental health implications in bladder cancer patients: A review. Urologic Oncology, 37(2), pp. 97-107. DOI: 10.1016/j.urolonc.2018.12.006
(2) “What is Mental Health?”, Bladdercancer.net, n.d. https://bladdercancer.net/mental-health/