BY ANKIT AGARWAL, MD
Many of the men I see at Western Radiation Oncology are relatively healthy, active men who are surprised to learn they have prostate cancer. Between appointments for diagnostic tests, appointments for doctors’ appointments, and reading about prostate cancer on the internet, they feel that their life is being consumed or defined by this new diagnosis of prostate cancer. While we can thankfully very effectively treat many men with prostate cancer today due to advancements in medicine, the stress of being diagnosed with prostate cancer can be overwhelming.
Family members and friends can be loving and supportive, but many of them have not faced a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Your spouse and family may also face uncertainty and fear. Other than your physician, who should you turn to for information and support? Thankfully, you, and your family members, should not feel alone in this cancer journey. Nearly 270,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2022 in the United States.
Many of these men work with patient support groups, and there is a plethora of options to choose from for men in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Support groups are formed by men who have been affected by prostate cancer or their family members. Here are a few of the types of support groups that exist:
- Online Only Support Groups: Several private moderated Facebook groups, Reddit communities, and forums exist for men with prostate cancer. Here is a private Facebook group for men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer and Here is a private Facebook group for caregivers of men with prostate cancer. Both groups are founded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
- In-Person Support Groups: ZERO, a leading national non-profit group in the prostate cancer space, hosts many local support groups in the Bay Area, CA. A full list of groups (in cities such as Oakland, San Jose, and Walnut Creek) can be found here: https://zerocancer.org/get-support/peer-support/us-too-support-groups/
- Peer Mentor: Some men prefer to connect with an individual who has gone through the prostate cancer treatment journey before them. While Dr. Steve Kurtzman and I (Dr. Ankit Agarwal) at Western Radiation Oncology can certainly connect you to one of our former patients directly, men can also connect with a Peer mentor via the ZERO MENtor program here: https://zerocancer.org/get-support/peer-support/mentor/
- Specialty Support Groups: Some patients want to find patients just like them to connect with about their experience. The Prostate Cancer Foundation hosts support groups for Veterans with prostate cancer here, for African-American men with prostate cancer here, and for gay men, bisexual men, and transgender women here.
While the list of support groups above is certainly not exhaustive, it can serve as a start for patients seeking cancer support group options. As always, beyond seeking the opinion of other men in a support group, I recommend that men learn about all potential options for the treatment of their prostate cancer before choosing a specific treatment.
While joining a cancer support group is not for everyone, there are many potential benefits to joining a one including the following:
- Friendship and camaraderie: Men who seek out support groups often find like-minded individuals that can become close friends even beyond their prostate cancer treatment journey
- Mental wellbeing: It can be easy to get lost in your thoughts and emotions while feeling that no one else truly understands what you are going through. Talking to other men who have gone through similar experiences gives you an outlet to “let it all out” in a safe space
- Empowerment: Many of the organizations listed above do much more than host support groups. They also raise money for prostate cancer research and host community events. Getting involved with these organizations can give men a sense of purpose and empower them to take action against prostate cancer.
Successful prostate cancer support groups are patient-driven and support men through many stages of their prostate cancer treatment journey. While prostate cancer support groups are a useful, and often essential, tool for many men in their prostate cancer journey, I always encourage men to speak to their urologist or radiation oncologist for the best medical information on the treatment of their prostate cancer.
At Western Radiation Oncology, we pride ourselves on providing personalized recommendations to each man with prostate cancer. We go beyond providing just medical attention, so our patients understand how best to deal with not only the physical health effects, but also the mental health effects of prostate cancer. We are happy to make personal referrals to patient support groups for patients who are interested in connecting with these groups. Please schedule a consultation with Dr. Ankit Agarwal or Dr. Steve Kurtzman at Western Radiation Oncology today here.