Living With Cancer: The Emotional Impact

Prostate Cancer UK

Living with prostate cancer can be hard to deal with emotionally as well as physically, and can affect how you feel. In this section we explain some of the common thoughts and feelings you might have.

If you are feeling down or worried and are finding it hard to deal with things, speak to your GP or specialist team. There are treatments and support available. If you need to speak to someone immediately, ring the Samaritans.

Common thoughts and feelings

Men respond in all kinds of ways to being diagnosed and living with prostate cancer. You may feel a wide range of emotions and they might change very quickly.

  • Shock, fear or anger. You could feel any or all of these things when you’re told you have prostate cancer.
  • Denial. If you feel well, you may find it difficult to accept that you have prostate cancer.
  • Frustration and disappointment. The way you think about yourself, your life and your plans might have changed.
  • Stress. It can be difficult to decide what treatment to have and you might feel stressed.
  • Worries about side effects. If you have side effects like erection, urinary and bowel problems, then coping with these could also make you feel down or worried.
  • Sense of loss. Hormone therapy can cause physical changes to your body, such as putting on weight, reduced physical strength, or changes to your sex life. This might make you feel very different about your body and cause a sense of loss.
  • Changing identity. Sometimes men say they feel less of a man because of their diagnosis and treatment. Some men feel that their role in the family has changed – for example, because they’ve had to stop working.
  • Mood swings. Hormone therapy can make you feel emotional and down. It can also cause mood swings, such as getting tearful and then angry.
  • Anxiety. Some men worry about getting their prostate specific antigen (PSA) test results. The PSA test is used to monitor your cancer if you’re not having treatment straight away or to check how successful treatment has been. Even after treatment has finished some men feel anxious and find it hard to move on and think about the future.
  • Feeling alone. You might feel isolated, especially if your treatment has finished and you’re no longer seeing your doctor or nurse.

All these are very normal ways to feel. These feelings may stay with you, but some men find they gradually change with time. 

Depression - seeing the signs

Men with prostate cancer may get depressed before or after treatment.

Depression can cause a variety of symptoms from feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you usually enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also feel anxious or worried. These feelings can impact on your life and mean that you feel constantly tired, sleep badly and have no appetite. You may feel more angry and irritable than before.

If you notice these changes in yourself and they don’t go away after a few weeks, speak to your GP, hospital doctor or nurse – there are things that can help. Regular physical activity may also help you deal with feelings of anxiety and depression. Learning ways to relax, such as yoga or meditation, might also help.

Thinking about the future

It’s natural to find it difficult and upsetting to think about the future – particularly if you have advanced prostate cancer. Many men with advanced cancer will have treatment that will control their cancer for many months or years but it could be a worrying time.

You might find that making plans helps you feel more prepared for what the future may hold, and reassured about the future for your family.

What can help?

Give yourself time. Don’t put yourself under pressure to be positive if that’s not how you feel. There will be good days and bad days – make the most of the days you feel well, and find ways to get through the bad days.

Some men want to find their own way to cope and don’t want help from anyone else. Other men try to cope on their own because they are uncomfortable talking about how they feel or are afraid of worrying loved ones. But there is support available if you need it.

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