It is important to learn to use as many resources as possible as we take our trip through the treatment processes for advanced prostate cancer. Many of us limit ourselves to just our doctor and perhaps their office nurse or Physician Assistant. The reality is that there are many other individuals who can make out journey less difficult.
Oncology social workers are trained to counsel survivors and their families who have been affected by cancer. They help survivors access practical assistance, they can provide individual counseling, support groups, locate services in your community that help with home care or transportation and guide you through the process of applying for Social Security Disability or other forms of assistance.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in helping people who are depressed and/or anxious. Being diagnosed with cancer takes a toll on all of us. Being depressed and anxious is a reasonable and common response experienced by many of us. Feeling this way is not shameful, but is a normal human response to this diagnosis. Because psychiatrists are medical doctors, psychiatrists often prescribe medication, such as antidepressants or medication to help you sleep.
Psychologists are professionals who can assist you if you are feeling depressed, anxious, or sad about your diagnosis or treatment side effects. While not medical doctors, psychologists have obtained a Ph.D. in psychology and many specialize in various forms of counseling. It is my believe that the best way to deal with depression and anxiety is to see both a psychiatrist and a psychologist simultaneously.
Nurses have a wide range of skills and they are usually in charge of implementing the plan of care your doctor has set up for you. They are trained to administer medication, monitor side effects and educate you on the medications you are receiving. Nurses are also aware of support services in your community, including social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in treating cancer survivors.
Home health aides assist people who are ill and need help with their life functioning. They can assist survivors with mobility problems, bathing, cooking, or doing household chores. Some state Medicaid programs will pay for home health aide care, provided a nurse supervises them. The downside is that private insurance or managed care plans rarely pay for a home health aides.
Rehabilitation specialists help people recover from physical changes caused by cancer or the cancer treatment. They include the services of physical therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, speech therapists, and other professionals who help you physically recover from cancer.
Nutritional services can help a survivor combat weight loss due to therapy. Dietary or nutritional services are commonly prescribed for people with cancer. A nutritionist will help you choose foods that don’t encourage the prostate cancer to grow while also providing adequate calories, vitamins, and protein to help you feel better and control your weight. They also can provide tips about increasing your appetite if you experience nausea, heartburn, or fatigue from your illness or treatment.
For many people a clergy member can enhance their life. Many of us find that prayer and spiritual counseling can be very important in helping us cope with cancer.
Hospice care workers focus on the special needs of survivors as they enter into the end stages of their disease. Hospice centers provide comfort, they help to control physical symptoms like pain, and they give emotional or spiritual support. Hospice care is usually provided at home, although there are hospice centers that operate much like hospitals and provide full-time care. Many men have reported that once they decide to enter into hospice care they feel as if a weight has been lifted from them.
Don’t limit yourself to just your doctor. Men with advanced prostate cancer can and should do better.
Joel T. Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.