A diagnosis of prostate cancer can leave you and your loved ones feeling uncertain, anxious and overwhelmed. When your health care team talks about your diagnosis and treatment, ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
The Importance of Communicating With Your Health Care Team
Good communication with your doctor will help improve the quality of the care you receive. It’s a good idea to bring a list of questions to the appointment and write down the doctor’s responses. In addition, if possible, bring someone with you to any appointment; another set of ears can help reduce confusion. For more information on talking with your doctor, read CancerCare’s booklet titled, “Communicating with Your Health Care Team.”
Questions that You May Want to Ask Your Health Care Team
Since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve been overwhelmed. How can I better cope with my diagnosis? A cancer diagnosis turns a person’s world upside down emotionally, financially and physically. Your team of doctors, nurses and social workers are valuable sources of support as you cope with a cancer diagnosis. Oncology social workers are licensed professionals who counsel people affected by cancer, providing emotional support and helping people access practical assistance. CancerCare’s oncology social workers provide individual counseling, support groups and locate services face-to-face, online or on the telephone, free of charge. To learn more, visit www.cancercare.org or call 800-813-HOPE (4673).
What stage is my tumor? A tumor’s stage refers to its size and extent of spread in the body—e.g., whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. Cancer that has spread to other organs is called metastatic cancer. A cancer’s stage is often denoted by a Roman numeral (I, II, III or IV). The higher the numeral, the more the cancer has spread within the body.
What is my recommended treatment plan? There are a wide range of treatments for prostate cancer, including surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy (vaccine therapy). People with early-stage prostate cancer may have no symptoms and only need close monitoring by their doctors.
How will treatment affect my fertility? Treatment options like radiation can affect one’s ability to have children. Talk to your health care team about all of your treatment options and the long-term effects.
Will treatment for prostate cancer allow me to be sexually active or intimate with my partner? Is there anything I should do and how do I explain things to my partner? Consult with your doctor before being sexually active. Intimacy may involve a level of physical activity so talk to your urologist about how your treatment plan will affect you being intimate and any concerns you may have. It’s also important to inform your health care team about changes in sexual health as they may be able to recommend options to reduce discomfort. You and your partner’s ability to find other ways to be intimate that do not require an erection can help you on your road to recovery. For more information, read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled, “Intimacy During and After Cancer Treatment.”
What side effects can I experience throughout my treatment plan? A key to managing side effects is to be aware of them and communicate with your health care team when they arise. Your health care team can help you cope with side effects of prostate cancer treatment. To help you get relief from side effects, your doctors and nurses need to know specific details about your symptoms. By keeping a side effect journal and bringing it with you to medical appointments, you can have this kind of information ready to share with them. Some of the things you may want to write down in your journal include:
- How long a side effect lasts
- The date and time a side effect occurs
- What impact the side effect has on your daily activities. For example—does pain keep you from sleeping?
- How strong the side effect is. For example—if you experience pain, how strong is it on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 equals no pain and 10 is the worst pain possible? Read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled, “Pain and Symptom Management: Talk to Your Health Care Team” for more information on talking to your doctor about pain.
Should I seek a second opinion? Usually with a new diagnosis there is a period of time, depending on the cancer type and stage, before treatment begins. During this time, getting a second opinion may help give you a peace of mind or an alternative treatment possibility. Talk to your health care team and read CancerCare’s “When to Get a Second Opinion” fact sheet for more information.
Is there a clinical trial I can participate in? If so, will it be covered by my insurance? Clinical trials are the standard by which we measure the worth of new treatments and the quality of life of patients as they receive those treatments. For this reason, doctors and researchers urge people with cancer to take part in clinical trials. Read CancerCare’s “Clinical Trials: What You Need to Know” fact sheet to learn more about clinical trials.