In it together
Prostate cancer is now the most common male cancer in the western world, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer.
In Australia over 120,000 men are living with a diagnosis of prostate cancer. In her book, ‘Facing the Tiger’, Professor Suzanne Chambers provides practical strategies to help cope with the emotional and psychological stress of living with cancer. Her audience is wide, from the men diagnosed with cancer to the people who care about them, love them and are affected by their diagnosis. Structured in chapters that allow readers to choose topics most relevant to them right now, the book is rich in shared experiences, personal stories and insights to provide comfort and support.
Here Professor Chambers tells us a little about her extensive research in health psychology, coping strategies and what she hopes readers take away from her book.
You have worked extensively in healthy psychology, how is the experience different for those with prostate cancer, their partners and families compared with other cancers?
Some things are similar. The diagnosis of any cancer is a shock for most people, a difficult time when the person with cancer and those close to them are faced with feelings of anxiety and worry about the future. The things that differ in terms of a person’s experience reflect the background of the person, their age, gender, personal circumstances (e.g. how much support they have around them and their views about cancer) and of course the effects of treatment. Men with prostate cancer face challenges to their sense of masculinity, face the physical side effects of treatment that can be daunting, and they may worry about how they are going to support their family and get on with their lives as they go through treatment and later get back to their usual way of life.
Your book is very practical - what do you hope readers take away from it?
I hope the book will help men and their families to feel less alone, to see that there are very practical steps they can take to help themselves get through this experience, and to be active in taking control of the situation in which they find themselves.
There are many personal stories in the book - how can these stories help those affected by prostate cancer?
People often feel like they are the only one this has happened to, even though they know this is not true. Reading other stories can help them feel less alone and get ideas about ways to cope that they may not have thought of, and that come from others with relevant personal experience.
What are common psychological issues that affect men who have prostate cancer and their partners?
Feeling anxious and sad, uncertain and fearful about what the future holds is common, especially early on close to diagnosis and treatment, for both men and their partners. Although many people find that these feelings subside with time, if they persist it is very important that people talk to their doctor about how they are doing and seek out help. Over time a major concern that affects many couples is changes in sexual function, and again getting early help is crucial.
What are the key strategies to help people cope with prostate cancer?
The book outlines different strategies for different situations and challenges. I call it the toolbox approach, having a different tool to solve different problems and again being flexible in how you approach things. Looking after yourself and prioritising your own health and wellbeing is important as is talking to those close to you about what is going on and in a relationship, working as a team.
Key statistics for prostate cancer in Australia
- Around 20,000 new cases are diagnosed in Australia every year
- Each day about 32 men learn news that they have prostate cancer –
- One in 9 men in Australia will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men and is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men