As with any disease, the diagnosis of prostate cancer impacts the whole family. But unlike other diagnoses, prostate cancer often directly affects significant others. A study by the European Association of Urology questioned 56 women on how prostate cancer affected the lives of their husbands. Nearly half of these women (46 percent) reported that their partner’s health problems had affected their own health. Dana Kababik’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. “When you hear the words, ‘you have prostate cancer,’ pretty much everything stops,” Kababik told U.S. News and World Report.

Kababik’s jargon is common among partners with prostate cancer, Dr. Andrew Roth, told U.S. News and World Report. Roth is a psychiatrist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “There are lots of spouses who will tell me cancer didn’t just hit the husband, it hit [the wife] as well,” he said. Kababik encourages women to cultivate a support system. “You don’t have to do it alone,” she said. “You can’t be there for your man if you don’t take care of yourself,” Kababik added.

Us TOO is a grassroots organization started in 1990 by prostate cancer survivors to serve prostate cancer survivors, their spouses, partners and families. It provides the following recommendations for wives and partners on this challenging journey:

  • Stand by your man in the doctor’s office. Attend medical appointments with your husband or partner, if possible, as you may be able to discern additional information, and serve as his champion in the treatment process.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Diagnosis can be scary and treatment options are often confusing. Help your loved one to investigate his condition and the treatment options available.
  • Lend your voice. Help your partner to communicate with his parents, friends, and children about the disease.
  • Your support is vital. Support your loved one in the treatment decisions he makes to ensure his health.
  • Prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment affects you both. Do not dismiss the emotional impact your partner’s prostate cancer may have on you.
  • Keep the lines of communication open as you share your feelings about the illness.
  • Talk with your doctor(s) about concerns you both may have.

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. It affects about one in nine men, according to The American Cancer Society (ACS). ACS estimates there will be about 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer in 2018. Although prostate cancer can be a serious disease, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die. ACS reports more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive today.

The prostate gland is a small gland that is part of the male reproductive system. This walnut-sized gland is located below the bladder and surrounds the urethra (Johns Hopkins Medicine). According to WebMD, the prostate gland becomes larger as part of the normal aging process for most men. WebMD reports as men reach the age of 40, their prostate might grow to be the size of an apricot, and by the time men reach 60, it can be the size of a lemon.

The location of the prostate makes it susceptible to several health conditions. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the prostate is prone to three main conditions:

  • Prostatitis: This is the infection or inflammation of the prostate. Prostatitis can cause burning or painful urination, the urgent need to urinate, or trouble urinating.
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): An age-related condition, also called prostate gland enlargement, which is not cancerous.  BPH affects about three-quarters of men over age 60.
  • Prostate cancer: Growth of cancerous cells inside the prostate. It occurs mainly in older men.

Physicians may use a variety of tests to check on the condition of a man’s prostate. According to WebMD, a few tests include prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, digital rectal exam (DRE), and prostate biopsy.

Recommendations for prostate cancer screenings vary. ACS, along with other leading medical organizations, recommends informed decision-making when it comes to screening for prostate cancer. ACS encourages men to make their own decisions, with the help of their medical care providers, about whether to be screened. ACS says men should speak with their physicians about the benefits, risks, and limits of prostate cancer screening.

According to the Mayo Clinic, organizations that do recommend PSA screening normally encourage the test in men between the ages of 50 and 70, and individuals with an increased risk of prostate cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests that all men over age 50 talk to their doctors about having a PSA test, and understand the risks and benefits of the test. African-American men have a higher risk than white men for prostate cancer, so many experts suggest they to begin talking to their doctors about the test when they are in their 40s.

Many prostate cancer survivors, and their family members, recommend prostate screening tests. After his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Robert Cunningham told the Prostate Cancer Foundation that he started including prostate cancer screenings in his own annual physical exams.

Common phrases like ‘man up’ and ‘be a man’ may discourage men from visiting a medical provider when needed.  Although it is up to each man and woman to seek medical attention, a little support from loved ones may go a long way. Care Spot shares these tips on how to get the man in your life to willfully seek professional care:

  • Let him know your feelings. Try to be loving and encouraging while having the conversation.
  • Be his sidekick and guide. If possible, go to the appointment with him.
  • Be prepared for the appointment. Write questions out ahead of time, along with symptoms and family history of disease.
  • In the end, be the supportive and positive force he needs.

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