Prostate cancer patients suffer in silence
THE first ever 10-year study of Australian men affected by prostate cancer has found many have long-term impairments to quality of life, sparking a call by experts for a change in the management of the insidious disease.
Cancer Council Queensland and University of Southern Queensland Lead researcher, Associate Professor Nicholas Ralph, says more needed to be done to support Australian men with prostate cancer survivorship.
"Although men with prostate cancer are living longer, they are not necessarily living well, with symptom burden increasing and quality of life declining over time.
"We found that 35 to 40 per cent of men experience poorer physical and mental quality of life outcomes and life satisfaction ten years after the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.
These symptoms were more pronounced for men with multiple conditions, those treated with Androgen Deprivation Therapy, and those from socio-economic disadvantage," he said.
The study followed men for a decade after a diagnosis of prostate cancer. The findings will be presented today at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting and has been published in the latest edition of Psycho-Oncology.
Co-author Professor Suzanne Chambers AO, Dean of University of Technology Sydney's Faculty of Health and Chair of the Centre for Research Excellence in Prostate Cancer Survivorship, says supportive care programs needed to be accessible to men in the years after treatment.
"Australia has one of the highest incidence rates internationally of prostate cancer, with one in every six Australian men likely to be diagnosed during their lifetime," Prof Chambers said.
"While survival rates for prostate cancer are high, the diagnosis of prostate cancer is a major life stress that is often followed by challenging treatment-related symptoms and heightened distress.
"Up to one in four men experience anxiety and up to one in five report depression, with an increased risk of suicide. Health service providers and policy makers need to prioritise and fund new models of care to ensure men are not suffering through their symptoms in silence".
Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) CEO Professor Jeff Dunn AO reiterated the call. PCFA recently released Australia's first Position Statement on Screening for Distress and Psychosocial Care for Men with Prostate Cancer with the Monograph: A Psychosocial Care Model for Men with Prostate Cancer.
"We must transform the way Australia manages this insidious disease," Prof Dunn said.
"For most men, a diagnosis of prostate cancer generates strong feelings and a life permanently changed. Few men have access to specialised psychosocial care to help manage the symptoms and side effects such as sexual dysfunction, incontinence, and weight gain.
"With survival rates at an all-time high, we must ensure that those who are living with the disease are living well, by restoring hope in a future free from both physical and psychological pain. Ultimately, this means we need to improve community awareness of the daily struggles that accompany prostate cancer survivorship and ensure life-changing support services are routinely available".
The PCFA Position Statement recommends that clinicians and health professionals apply a new comprehensive Model of Care for men affected by prostate cancer, screening men for distress so that psychological and quality of life concerns can be identified and managed.
Each year about 20,000 Australian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, around 3,500 will die of the disease, and more than 200,000 Australian men are alive today after a diagnosis.