MEDIA RELEASE — Rocketing prostate cancer rates a major mental health concern

For Immediate release

MEDIA RELEASE: Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer in Australia, overtaking breast cancer as the country’s leading cause of cancer. That brings with it a serious mental health issue currently unaddressed by much of the medical profession. Living with a diagnosis of prostate cancer brings many men and their partners a level of psychological distress that compromises both their mental and physical health.

A prostate cancer diagnosis is almost always accompanied by feelings of fear, shock, anger, deep sadness and confusion. It’s what psychologists call ’a major life stress’ — an event that causes a threat to the things that matter to us most. This level of stress can cause serious harm. Compared with men in the general population, men with prostate cancer are twice as likely to experience depression and three times more likely to experience anxiety. The risk of suicide for these men is greatest within the first year after diagnosis.

Such significant levels of psychological distress also harm a man’s ability to navigate the complex journey required for successful outcomes from prostate cancer treatment. It can compromise their physical health, their decision-making, their communication with health professionals, and their ability to effectively use social support networks.

Side effects from certain prostate cancer treatments compound the distress with impacts on cognitive capacity, feelings of self-worth, and personal resilience. This distress radiates out, affecting partners, families, colleagues.

There is a decade and more of detailed research and clinical evidence showing that a focus on psychological care improves prostate cancer treatment outcomes. Yet ameliorating psychological distress to improve outcomes is not yet a standard part of medical treatment within Australia. Men continue to report unmet psychological care while undergoing treatment.

The challenge for Australia’s urologists and cancer treatment centres is to first recognise much of the existing psychological distress of their patients is likely hidden from them. Asking for psychological help does not come naturally to many men. Research has even shown that men who say to their doctor they will take action to deal with their prostate cancer are actually those who are least likely to seek help. This hidden impact then has the potential to affect the way in which a doctor’s patients interact with them and make serious decisions about treatment that can affect their lives forever.

The next challenge is how to incorporate such care into medical treatment without major financial investments in the employment of psychologists and specialist counsellors.

The answer is to make proper use of a well-established, evidence-based resource called Facing the Tiger from Australia’s own world leader in the psychology of prostate cancer, Professor Suzanne Chambers AO. Facing the Tiger is part of a tiered level of psychological care specifically developed for a range of healthcare users involved in the treatment and care of prostate cancer.

It is not a book about treatment options, cancer, anatomy, or disease. It does not give any medical advice. It is, in fact, a subtle psychological intervention capable of ameliorating psychological distress around a prostate cancer diagnosis and throughout a man’s treatment journey. 

And it costs around $20 per patient.

Problem solved?


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