Help for cancer victims

PROSTATE cancer is not the easiest thing to talk about, but a new support group is helping men to share their experience.

By Tracey Sparling

IT didn't sound like the sort of plan which was destined to work.

Invite dozens of men to a room and get them talking about their nether regions.

But thanks to a winning approach by a team at Ipswich Hospital, the first meeting of a new support group got off to a cracking start when 56 people turned up.


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Chris Garlick Macmillan urology and oncology specialist, set up the group with Amanda Ford, Macmillan radiographer.

Patients' natural reluctance to talk, and embarassment soon disappeared because they found they had plenty to ask, and offer other people.

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Amanda said: "We have lots of volunteers already, who want to be trained up to help others, but that's in the future. It's still early days yet."

Chris said: "People can feel very isolated and when they are given the diagnosis, many feel they are the only person with that diagnosis.

"In fact we have 170 new diagnoses every year. About 20 patients have the gland removed by surgery, 25-35 have radiotherapy, and the rest do what's called 'watchful waiting' - monitoring the cancer to make sure it doesn't spread. Some older men decide to leave the cancer rather than undergo an operation. Others have cancer which is spreading, so they have palliative treatments like hormone therapy to stop feeding the cancer.

"But we are diagnosing lots of people at a younger age, because awareness of the disease is increasing and people are asking GPs for tests and more sophisticated tests are available."

He said: "The group can show them how others have coped, and their carers too, and help build friendships.

"People often say after a diagnosis 'it would be really useful to talk to somebody' about what they can expect to happen, and people coming to the support group have offered to talk about the treatment options.

"It's not intended to be a therapeutic group, but more for people to compare notes. There are hundreds of people around with prostate cancer and lots of hot issues.

"We will also have guest speakers and there will be lots of information about where to find useful information like good websites. There's lots of information available out there, but we can filter that a bit.

"We can also feedback people's comments about the service the urology and oncology departments provide at Ipswich Hospital, to make improvements in future."

The first meeting included a presentation by Chris, then split into smaller informal discussion groups.

Chris said 40 questionnaires were given out to see if people thought the group was useful, and all but one responded positively.

Now 11 people have formed a working party to help the group progress into the future.

Factfile:

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer affecting British men.

The risk of developing prostate cancer is around one in 12.

About 21,000 men are diagnosed every year in the UK.

It is the second-biggest killer of men in the country.

More than 10,000 men die from it annually in the UK - 190 deaths per week and it is estimated that this number will increase by almost 50 per cent over the next 20 years.

The cancer is no longer confined to elderly men - people as young as 40 are now at risk.

Prostate cancer receives approximately one tenth of the research funding currently spent on breast cancer.

Symptoms include:

difficulty or pain when passing urine

the need to pass urine more often

broken sleep due to increased visits to pass urine

waiting for long periods before the urine flow

feeling that the bladder has not emptied fully

Weblinks:

www.cancerfacts.net

www.medweb.bham.ac.uk/cancerhelp

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