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5 Ways to Boost Your Quality of Life During Prostate Cancer Treatment
1. Learn what to expect.
A diagnosis of prostate cancer can upend your life. Your plans can suddenly change, and you may be overwhelmed by what the future might hold. If that’s the case, talk to your doctor and learn as much as you can about your diagnosis.
Ask your doctor to write down the name and stage of your cancer, says the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This will tell you the size of the tumor and if it’s spread to other parts of your body. By knowing this information, you can work with your doctor to decide which treatment options are best for you.
You should also ask your doctor as many questions as you need. Write down your questions and take them with you to your office visit, says the NCI, but ask your most important questions first, in case your doctor runs out of time. Don’t worry if they seem silly; they deserve an answer.
Sometimes the information and treatment options can be difficult to understand or remember. Take a family member or friend with you who can also listen and learn. Schedule another appointment with your doctor if more questions come up.
2. Try to keep up with your daily routine.
If you work and are feeling up to it, try to go — even if it’s not for the entire day. Talk to your boss, coworkers, or fellow volunteers about what you can handle. Remember that people who seem unsupportive might be worried about their own chances of getting cancer. Decide if you’d rather avoid talking about cancer or be open about it. Do whatever feels right for you.
Spend time with family and friends or go on a trip. Ask yourself some simple questions:What makes me happy? What do I enjoy?Or do the things you haven’t had time for, such as going on a cruise, learning to play chess, or finding time to pick up that old guitar.
3. Eat well and exercise.
Being active can give you more energy, says the NCI. Try swimming, walking, or doing yoga. Exercise, according to the NCI, keeps your muscles toned, speeds healing, decreases fatigue, controls stress, and increases your appetite.
“Any form of exercise is a good thing,” Dr. Morris says. So is meditation and mindfulness training. “Some people find enormous assistance and relief from these therapies,” he says.
With regard to diet, some experts speculate that there’s a link between Western, high-fat diets and prostate cancer, Morris says. It’s not known whether a healthy diet can reduce the likelihood of relapse, but it certainly can’t hurt.
4. Find a therapist or support group.
For Marcus, finding a support group changed his thinking entirely. “It was like manna from heaven,” he says. “I’d never met anyone diagnosed with prostate cancer before. And I was frightened.” He went to a hospital support group and then discovered Us Too. “This made dealing with prostate cancer much easier for me.”
Large metropolitan medical centers are likely to have social workers, therapists, and psychiatrists on staff or nearby. In less populated areas, you might need to seek out this help on your own. Us Too, which has chapters around the country, offers monthly meetings with expert speakers on different aspects of prostate cancer.
Other helpful groups include CancerCare, a national organization that offers free support and information for people with cancer. CancerCare provides “professional support services — including counseling, support groups, educational workshops, publications, and financial assistance — to people affected by cancer. All of the services are provided by oncology social workers and leading cancer experts.
Another organization, devoted exclusively to prostate cancer, is Zero — The End of Prostate Cancer, a nonprofit with a mission to end prostate cancer. It aims to create what it calls Generation Zero, the “first generation of men free from prostate cancer.”
5. Explore alternative therapies.
At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where Morris practices, people have access to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which includes herbal and nutritional therapies.
“People are always looking for something they can do from a lifestyle perspective to complement traditional prostate cancer treatment,” he says. They might also try acupuncture or other nonconventional treatments, such as spiritual activities.
The key issue is safety, Morris says. “You need to make sure you’re safe using complementary approaches. Look for good communication between oncologists and complementary medicine people.”
And the potential risks of CAM therapies are real. “Some complementary agents can raise hormone levels and stimulate the tumor,” Morris says.
Overall, men with prostate cancer should work on their health more broadly, he says.
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