Taking control: Living with prostate cancer

“You have prostate cancer.”

Hearing you have prostate cancer is usually a huge shock. Many men view prostate cancer as a “death sentence”. We now understand a lot more about the different types of prostate cancer and in most cases it can be successfully treated.

A new diagnosis of prostate cancer still ‘packs a powerful punch’ and can cause men diagnosed with it to feel intense and conflicting emotions. This page describes some of the common reactions men have towards prostate cancer and suggests ways of helping you regain control. For more detailed information on prostate cancer read the Cancer Society booklet Prostate Cancer: A guide for men with prostate cancer

You can also visit the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand for details of their support groups.

Common reactions

“Don’t worry mate – she’ll be right.”

Pushing the news to the side (denial) can be a common way to soften the blow of a prostate cancer diagnosis. It may be a good way to cope in the beginning. However, denial can get in the way of gathering the information you need to help you make decisions about your treatment.

Anxiety – fear for the future

A cancer diagnosis affects many aspects of your life. You may be worried about your finances your job, your partner or family.

You may have questions like “Am I going to survive this cancer?”, “Can I still work?”, “Can I still have sex?”, “How will my family cope?” You may not be able to take in important information your doctors are giving you. Anxiety can produce physical symptoms such as feeling your heart is racing, breathlessness, increased blood pressure, loss of appetite, nausea and disturbed sleep.

Anger - “Why me?”

Anger often stems from fear and panic and may be directed at loved ones at a time when you most need their support.

If you are concerned about how you are feeling, speak to your doctor and phone the nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) about counselling services in your area.


Men with prostate cancer are nearly twice as likely to develop depression as other men. Having prostate cancer can cause worry, stress and sadness both in men with cancer and their partners.

Taking control - what can help?

Joining a support group

For some people, meeting others who are in a similar situation can help to decrease feelings of anxiety, isolation or fear. Support groups offer you the opportunity to share your experiences and learn different ways of dealing with problems.


Prostate cancer support groups are available nationwide to assist you and are run by the Prostate Cancer Foundation. These can be found on their website: www.prostate.org.nz/support-groups.

“My piece of advice if you have this condition, talk to others who have had it, read widely and find a local prostate group to attend.”



How families/whānau can help

As a friend or family/whānau member of someone who is diagnosed with prostate cancer, you are also learning to cope with your own feelings and emotions. You may want to help but not know what to do. Here are some suggestions that may be useful.

• Learn about prostate cancer and its treatment. This will help you to understand what the person you are supporting is coping with.

• Be thoughtful about offering advice. Listening while they talk or just being there with them, are good ways to show you care.

• Talk about your feelings together and be honest about what worries you.

• Offer to go to appointments with them. You can be there for support, take notes or, when appropriate, take part in the discussions.

• Respect that your family/whānau member or friend may want to talk to their treatment team alone.


The Cancer Society offers a range of resources to support you. We suggest you read Supporting Someone with Cancer which is available on our website www.cancer.org.nz.



 Cultural and spiritual support

Hospitals throughout New Zealand have trained health workers available to support your spiritual, cultural and advocacy needs. They may include Māori and Pacific health workers who will work with you and your family/whānau. Hospital chaplains are available to offer support through prayer and quiet reflection.


Community health workers based at your local marae or community-based Pacific health service may be a good source of support.


Interpreting services

New Zealand’s Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights states that everyone has the right to have an interpreter present during a medical consultation.


If you do not speak English as your first language or you are deaf, you may find it helpful to use an interpreter when you have your hospital appointments. Speak to a member of your health care team about arranging interpreters in your local area.


Lifestyle changes to help you cope with cancer

 Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain. Eating well, exercising and relaxing may help to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Addressing changes in your emotions and relationships early on is also very important.


  Research indicates that regular, gentle exercise may help with fatigue and lift your mood. Talk with your cancer treatment team about what exercise is best for you.


A number of support services are available to you if you are having difficulty coping with your cancer diagnosis or adjusting to the lifestyle changes your cancer diagnosis may bring.


For more information, see the Cancer Society booklets Coping with Cancer and Eating Well During Cancer Treatment/Kia Pai te Kai te wā Maimoatanga Matepukupuku, and our pamphlet Being Active When You Have Cancer on our website, www.cancernz.org.nz.