How to Support Your Partner During Prostate Cancer Treatment
Prostate cancer doesn’t just affect the man diagnosed; the disease’s impact also extends to his partner, children, parents, and friends. As the partner of a man with prostate cancer, it can be hard to know how to respond and what to do to support your other half through his treatment and beyond. The diagnosis itself is terrifying for many partners. Physical and emotional healing after treatment can take a long time, and side effects may linger.
If your partner is diagnosed with prostate cancer, you can offer both practical and emotional support by gathering information, being present for doctor’s appointments, and encouraging your partner to get plenty of rest, eat right, and take good care of himself. You should know what to expect following your partner’s diagnosis. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.
Give Your Partner Practical Support
One of the most important things you can do as the partner of a man going through or about to begin prostate cancer treatment is to offer practical support. This means accompanying your partner to doctor’s appointments and treatment sessions, as long as he’s amenable to it. Ask questions, make notes, and be an advocate for your partner during his treatment. Often, you’ll pick up on things that your partner may have been too distracted to notice. Your partner may also need help with transportation, scheduling, filing insurance claims, and other mundane tasks related to treatment.
You can also help your partner by communicating with others in his life about his diagnosis. Many men prefer to keep a diagnosis of prostate cancer private, but if your partner wants to reveal his diagnosis and treatment progress to others close to him, he may need you to do the talking. Be prepared to help your partner talk with loved ones about his prostate cancer.
Be There for Your Partner Emotionally
Prostate cancer and its treatment can leave emotional wounds as well as physical ones. Encourage your partner to discuss his feelings with you, but don’t be pushy about it. Remind him that he’s not less of a man because of prostate cancer, and that it can take some time for him to begin to feel like his old self again.
Know What to Expect
Knowing what to expect after a prostate cancer diagnosis can make it easier for both of you to cope. Depending on the treatment, your partner may face side effects including:
- Temporary or ongoing erectile dysfunction
- Low sex drive
- Weight gain and muscle loss
- Hot flashes
- Brittle bones
- Urinary incontinence or bowel problems
Sometimes prostate cancer treatment can cause cognitive changes, too, including memory problems and trouble concentrating. Radiosurgery treatment through CyberKnife will leave patients with fewer side effects.
Take Care of Yourself
You won’t be able to support your partner if you allow yourself to become emotionally depleted, so take care of yourself, too. In addition to eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep, take time for the hobbies you enjoy and the other people and things you love. Spend time with friends, talking about things other than your partner’s prostate cancer. Set aside time to relax each day.
It’s not easy supporting a partner who’s going through prostate cancer treatment. You can help by handling many of the mundane tasks associated with managing medical care, and by offering your partner a kind ear. Facing prostate cancer takes courage, but the two of you will win out in the end.
Could Home Remedies Help With Your Trigeminal Neuralgia Pain?
Trigeminal neuralgia can cause what some sufferers have described as blinding pain in the cheek, jaw, forehead, eye, and teeth on one side of the face. Pain can affect both sides of the face, but this is very rare and pain symptoms will affect only one side of the face at a time. The shooting pains have been likened to an electrical shock and an episode of trigeminal neuralgia pain can last up to two minutes.
Trigeminal neuralgia treatment often involves medications or surgery. Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) can treat trigeminal neuralgia pain in a safe and non-invasive way by damaging the nerve responsible for the pain. It can take several weeks for SBRT to effectively relieve pain and symptoms can recur — although if necessary, SBRT can easily be repeated to achieve a more complete treatment. While you’re waiting for treatment to take full effect, you can try some home remedies to try and reduce trigeminal neuralgia pain by using heat, cold, or pressure.
Apply Heat or Cold to the Painful Area
Many people find relief from trigeminal neuralgia pain by applying heat to the affected area. You can do this locally by pressing a hot water bottle or other hot compress to the painful spot. Heat a beanbag or warm a wet washcloth in the microwave for this purpose. You can also try taking a hot shower or bath. If one is available, sit in a hot sauna.
Cold may also help relieve the pain, although you’ll obviously want to avoid this remedy if you’re one of the many trigeminal neuralgia sufferers for whom cold triggers symptoms. But if you think applying cold to the affected area might help relieve your symptoms until you can get SBRT or while you’re waiting for it to take effect, you can use an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel or pillowcase to numb the painful area. Keep the cold in contact with the affected area for about 30 seconds or until the area begins to feel numb. Some trigeminal neuralgia sufferers find that switching between the hot and cold compresses helps more.
Apply Pressure to the Painful Area
While many people find that a light touch — often as light as a gentle breeze wafting over their skin — can trigger trigeminal neuralgia symptoms, they also find that applying pressure to the area can help relieve symptoms. Use your entire hand to press on the affected area. You may need to apply a reasonable amount of pressure in order to get results.
Know Your Triggers
The more you know about what triggers your trigeminal neuralgia pain, the better equipped you’ll be to avoid those triggers and completely escape painful symptoms more often. Some common triggers include eating, talking, brushing teeth, cold, and light touches to the face. Things you wouldn’t expect can trigger trigeminal neuralgia pain, too. One woman reported that peppermint candy triggered her symptoms. If you can’t figure out what’s causing your pain, it may be helpful to keep a pain diary in which you record key details of your environment and activity in order to look for common threads among different symptom flare-ups.
While home remedies may not be capable of completely curing trigeminal neuralgia symptoms, they can be very useful for people who are waiting for treatment or who still have to make it through the recovery period in which symptoms gradually recede after SBRT. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you’ll be glad to experience relief from your trigeminal neuralgia pain.
Quit Smoking to Improve Your Prostate Cancer Treatment Outcomes
According to the results of a new study, men who smoke during prostate cancer treatment are not only more likely to experience treatment side effects, they’re also more likely to experience a recurrence or even die from prostate cancer.
While men who have never smoked before in their lives run the least risk of experiencing prostate cancer treatment side effects, cancer recurrence, or death, the study found that even men who quit smoking right before beginning cancer treatment enjoyed better treatment outcomes than those who continued smoking throughout treatment.
Smoking Makes Prostate Cancer Treatment Less Effective
The study, performed by researchers from New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and published in the journal BJU International, examined the effects of smoking history among a group of 2,358 patients who received external beam radiotherapy for prostate cancer between 1988 and 2005. 2,156 of the study participants had some kind of smoking history. Researchers divided the patients into four categories: never smokers, current smokers, former smokers, and current smoking status unknown. Even those participants who quit smoking right before beginning prostate cancer treatment were included in the “former smoker” category.
The researchers followed up with the study participants eight years after they received treatment. They found that patients who smoked during the cancer treatment had a 40 percent higher risk of relapse. Those who smoked during treatment were also twice as likely to experience prostate cancer metastasis and to die from prostate cancer, when compared to those who had never smoked.
Patients who were considered former smokers under the terms of the study also had a slightly elevated risk of cancer recurrence, metastasis, and death, but their risks were somewhat lower than those of patients who smoked throughout cancer treatment. Ten years later, only about 52 percent of patients who smoked throughout treatment had not suffered a recurrence of prostate cancer, while 63 percent of former smokers and 66 percent of never smokers were still in the clear.
While today’s patients can choose from a far wider range of prostate cancer treatment options, external beam radiotherapy remains one of the oldest treatments for the disease. There is no reason to believe that the impact of smoking on the efficacy of other prostate cancer treatments, like stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), would be any different than its impact on the efficacy of external beam radiotherapy. The study authors believe that smoking could contribute to the formation of more aggressive cancer tumors. They also speculate that smoking during cancer treatment could interfere with treatment by lowering oxygen levels within tumor cells, making them less susceptible to the effects of radiation.
In addition to an enhanced risk of cancer recurrence, metastasis, and death, current and former smokers involved in the study also experienced a greater risk of a range of urinary side effects. These side effects included urinary incontinence, urinary toxicity, bladder hemorrhage, and urinary retention.
If you want to improve your chances of a good treatment outcome for prostate cancer, you might want to consider quitting smoking. While researchers don’t yet fully understand the relationship between smoking and prostate cancer, new evidence suggests that smoking during treatment can make treatment less effective. If you’re a smoker who’s already been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s not too late — quitting smoking can still make a difference, even if you do it right before you start treatment.
How to Deal With Physical Changes After Cancer Treatment Ends
Even after cancer treatment ends, you may find that you are still coping with physical changes related to treatment. These changes can range from reduced strength and endurance to lasting fatigue, pain, weight changes, and sexual changes.
While you may be able to counteract many of these lasting side effects with regular exercise, good nutrition, and other positive lifestyle changes, many side effects may linger for months or years after treatment ends, and it’s important to know how to cope.
No matter what kind of cancer you’ve suffered or what kind of treatment you’ve received, you may experience fatigue for a long time after your treatment ends. This kind of fatigue doesn’t go away with sleep. Though researchers don’t yet understand what causes treatment-related fatigue in cancer patients, it may occur due to poor nutrition, dehydration, anemia, pain, and depression.
Gentle exercise, relaxation, pain control, good nutrition, and drinking more fluids can help combat fatigue. Ask your treatment team about ways to fight fatigue. The causes of fatigue in people who have finished cancer treatment are different from the causes of fatigue in people who are still receiving treatment, so if you experienced fatigue during treatment, don’t be surprised if the solutions change.
Lingering pain may occur due to nerve damage caused by chemotherapy or damage to the skin caused by radiation therapy. Surgery scars can also cause pain after treatment ends. Some therapies for post-treatment pain include:
- Antidepressants or narcotic painkillers
- Physical therapy
- Nerve blocks or other surgery
You can lower your risk of post-treatment pain with SBRT, a form of radiation therapy that minimizes damage to healthy tissue to reduce or eliminate complications.
Some kinds of cancer therapy can cause weight gain, and after treatment, survivors find that it’s even harder than it should be to lose the weight because normal methods of weight loss don’t work. Chemotherapy can cause patients to lose muscle tissue and gain fatty tissue. Other survivors struggle with the opposite problem — they lose weight and can’t gain it back.
If you’re trying to lose weight after cancer treatment, you may want to try a combination of strength-training exercises and a healthy, low-calorie diet. If you want to gain more weight after cancer treatment, you may want to try:
- Eating several smaller meals instead of three larger ones.
- Eating more of your favorite foods.
- Making your meals look attractive.
- Using sauces, savory vegetables, and other seasonings to add flavor to foods.
Sexual changes are common after cancer treatment, especially among people who have had breast, prostate, or other reproductive cancer treatment. Survivors report losing interest in sex because of changes in body image, fatigue, pain, or simply a lowered sex drive. Others experience physical problems that make it harder to be intimate. Whatever the problem, it’s important that you ask your doctor about medication, counseling, or other therapies that can help resolve it. A sex therapist may also be able to help you and your partner come up with solutions.
Physical changes like pain and fatigue can persist for months after cancer treatment ends — some changes may last even longer. While it’s easy to get discouraged in the face of lingering cancer treatment side effects, try not to let these physical changes get you down. With time and a little creativity, you’ll soon find ways to enjoy yourself in spite of any lasting treatment side effects — and you may even find that most side effects do go away eventually, even if it takes a while.
10 Years of Use Proves the Safety and Efficacy of SBRT for Lung Cancer
According to researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, a decade of lung cancer treatment with SBRT has proven that this focused radiation therapy is not only effective for controlling the growth and spread of lung cancer, it can also limit radiation exposure for the patient. The researchers tracked the results of SBRT for inoperable, early-stage lung cancer from 2003 to 2013. During that time, a mere 13 percent of the patients studied demonstrated any side effects, and even among those that did, symptoms were usually minimal.
For the purposes of the study, patients received what the researchers dubbed the “50-in-5 regimen” of SBRT, which consists of a total of 50 Gy of focused radiation delivered over the course of five sessions. Between October 2003 and December 2012, 300 patients received the 50-in-5 regimen to treat a total of 340 non-small cell lung cancer lesions. The average patient was 74 years old and over half the patients studied were women. A little more than 18 percent were cigarette smokers, although most of the patients were considered inoperable for other reasons.
The majority of the patients only needed a single course of SBRT for lung cancer treatment. Treatments were administered daily over a five-day period. Fifteen percent of the patients needed one or more additional courses of SBRT because their cancer came back. The short course of treatment with SBRT and the effectiveness of the treatment are why so many patients now choose CyberKnife for non-invasive lung cancer treatment.
High Efficacy, Low Toxicity
Though researchers did find that SBRT was effective at treating non-small cell lung cancer, they did point out that only 47 percent of the patients were alive at the five-year follow-up, largely due to patients’ advanced age and the occurrence of other diseases that affect survival. While SBRT did eliminate the cancer within the lung, a significant percentage of patients experienced a return of cancer in another part of the body.
Nevertheless, Cleveland Clinic Foundation radiation oncologist Dr. Gregory Videtic called the treatment “an amazing technology for a population of patients who previously had no other options.” He believes that this non-invasive, focused radiation treatment could extend the life spans of up to 20,000 people each year by giving those who aren’t healthy enough for surgery another option.
Furthermore, SBRT is one of the safest forms of cancer treatment. A mere 13 percent of the patients studied exhibited any side effects at all due to the treatment, and all of those were low-level, minor side effects. In 75 percent to 80 percent of the cases, side effects were minor enough to heal on their own, and within a short time frame. Previous studies seemed to suggest that SBRT was very safe, but this study is important because side effects from radiation treatment can sometimes appear several years after treatment ends. The length of the study period allowed the researchers to evaluate the long-term safety of the procedure.
According to the results of a new 10-year study from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, SBRT is effective and remains safe, even in the long term. If you or someone you love is suffering from inoperable lung cancer, this non-invasive procedure could help you overcome cancer with just one short round of treatment.