Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers to affect men, and in addition to its physical impact, it can have important mental and emotional impacts. Experts have said that the stigma associated with prostate cancer often prevents men from seeking emotional help. Studies show that patients fear the progression of the disease and the impact it might have on their relationships. Effects of prostate cancer on sexual health are often a major concern, and patients are encouraged to be verbal about their thoughts and feelings.
Some of the adverse effects of prostate cancer are fatigue, increased pain, sleep disturbances, frequent urination, hot flashes, depression, anxiety, decreased libido, changes in sexual functioning and discomfort about being sexually intimate with partners.
Multiple treatments exist, including medications, prostheses, and both sex therapy and couples’ therapy to help patients and their partners find alternative ways to connect intimately throughout treatment.
The side effects of prostate cancer treatment, especially hormone therapy, can often impact a patient’s emotional health. Physical effects of hormone therapy include loss of muscle and bone mass, redistribution of fat, obesity, and diabetes. These physical changes can evoke anxiety and depression in patients.
In addition, pain in and of itself can cause depressive symptoms and changes in emotional states, but both medication and pain-specific therapy can ameliorate these symptoms.
Weakness and fatigue caused by the illness itself, hormones, steroids and other cancer-related medications can be particularly upsetting to previously active, independent men who are now dependent on family or caretakers. Exercise and strength-training, identifying realistic goals, stimulants and antidepressants can all be used to increase energy.
Patients can also experience cognitive decline with treatments, with changes in memory and concentration.
Support groups are often helpful in decreasing anxiety and depression, and resources also exist for caretakers to prevent burnout.1