Contributed By Anshu Guleria, MD –
Although only men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the condition affects families as a whole. When men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the first action is to talk with their doctor and determine the next steps for not only themselves, but also for the entire family. One important way family can be involved in the treatment process is to have a family member or close friend become an informal caregiver. Although it sounds like an odd title, the distinction is important in shifting not only how the patient attacks the disease, but also the entire family and support system.
Helping men navigate their cancer, caregivers are the backbone of support throughout the entire process. Caregivers provide more than just emotional support; they actively participate in research, decision making, and doctor visits among others. Since caregiving is such an important part of treatment and recovery, there are multiple organizations out there that educate and aid caregivers throughout their time supporting their family member. To help a loved one beat prostate cancer and live a fulfilling life, here are three vital steps to ensure a caregiver is providing the best care possible.
1. Learn. The first step to becoming an impactful caregiver is learning more about prostate cancer. After receiving the diagnosis news, plan to spend time researching prostate cancer and the many treatments available—both with and without the patient. Diagnosis can be a confusing time for a man, so having someone who helps hold the burden of making educated decisions can eliminate added stress and fear. Having a foundational understanding of the disease is key to knowing when to ask the right questions and when to push for a second opinion.
2. Take Care of Yourself. Although being there for the patient is typically considered the first priority, it is imperative to remember the mental health and wellness of the caregiver is important too. Because caregivers are common and critical, there are networks of support groups aimed at alleviating the mental and physical burden of supporting a cancer patient. In addition to providing an outlet for frustration and other emotions, support groups also offer an open forum to discuss treatment options, the side effects of cancer, and personal concerns. Although allies in treatment are of the utmost importance, they must be aware of their limitations. Caregivers must remember to keep themselves well in order to provide positivity to their family member throughout the sometimes long treatment and recovery process.
3. Participate. Once research is completed and a support group is found, the caregiver is ready to adequately contribute to patient care. In addition to being easily accessible emotional support, caregivers can assist by participating in treatment. Taking notes, asking probing questions, scheduling and driving the patient to and from appointments, and relaying pertinent medical information to the doctor can deliver inexplicable assistance. When aiding someone with prostate cancer, caregivers must walk a fine line between doing the most they can to provide guidance, while not overstepping and controlling the situations.
Handling the care of someone diagnosed with prostate cancer can be taxing; however, family and friend support can provide a united force, dedicated to eliminating the cancer and the side effects that come along with it.
Caregivers serve an important role in treatment, but they must remember to stay informed and stay healthy themselves. Prostate cancer diagnosis can be demanding; nonetheless, family encouragement and assistance can go a long way toward tackling this disease.
About the Author
Dr. Anshu Guleria has been pioneer in minimally invasive prostate cancer treatments since the mid-1990s.
While a resident, he participated in the first brachytherapy cases in the DC area. His research paper on the subject earned a prize at the Mid Atlantic Sectional Meeting of the American Urological Association. In 1998 he performed the first brachytherapy case at Inova Fairfax Hospital. By 2002, Dr. Guleria had started doing outpatient prostate cryoablation surgery with great success.
In 2010, expecting FDA approval, he began treating patients with HIFU in the Bahamas. As medical director of NOVA HIFU, he will assure that patients have a rigorous pre-treatment evaluation in order to achieve the best post-treatment outcome.