Prostate Cancer Patient Advocate, Navigator or Health Advocate
The concept of patient advocacy in its current form was developed in 1950’s as the treatment of cancer patients grew more and more technically complicated, as a means to make the voice of the patient more readily heard. In today’s world of constantly evolving medical techniques, treatments, and services, the average individual cannot be expected to be thoroughly acquainted with any and all this material. So it becomes the function of the prostate cancer patient advocate to perform a variety of services to ease the burden of the patient, and their family, as they learn to deal with every aspect of the disease.
The primary concern of the prostate cancer advocate to the support the cancer patient in all aspects of life with the disease, whether they be physical, emotional, or financial. An advocate can assist the patient in investigating available treatment options and educating the patient on the efficacy of each of them, be it pharmacological or surgical. By educating the patient, the advocate can be of great assistance in helping them make an informed decision about their course of action, and the possible side effects and outcomes. Support may also involve recommending counseling services for the patient, and their family members, to help them cope from day to day. Prostate cancer patient advocates may also be of assistance in helping the patient, and their caregivers, deal with any physical debilitation resulting from the disease, and its treatment.
Another aspect of prostate patient advocacy is assistance in navigating the financial aspects of treating the disease. An advocate can act as a liaison between the patient and his or her insurance company, assuring that the patient receives any and all benefits to which they are entitled. When one is dealing with a serious disease, it is quite easy to lose track of other aspects of your life. An advocate can help to seek out sources of assistance which can ease the financial burden of the patient.
Education is also a major function of a cancer advocate. Both the patient, and their caregivers, are often in need of information about how the disease will affect their lives, both during its progression, and in its aftermath. Patients must be informed about how their condition will affect their mobility, the ability to care for themselves, and if they will be left with any permanent impairment to their lifestyle. Caregivers need to be instructed in mechanisms, or techniques they must use to cope with the patient’s daily care, such as injections, proper care of surgical dressings, etc.
The cancer patient, above everything else, needs to know that there is someone in their corner. Someone who will help them find their way through the confusing, and sometimes daunting, world of modern medicine. Someone who will have their best interests in mind as they face challenges presented every day in their struggle to find, secure, and finance the best treatment available.
What is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate gland is found between the urinary bladder and the urethra. Like the breast and ovarian cancers, hormones greatly affect the development of lung cancer. There are many types of cancer of the lungs but acina adenocarcinoma is the most prevalent at about 90% of all cases.
The presence of prostate cancer doesn’t necessarily present with symptoms that lead the victim to seek medical help. Many men die with it so that it only discovered on postmortem. On the other hand symptoms are noticed and are related to the primary functions of the prostate. These are:
· Frequently passing of little urine.
· Feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder.
· Pain on passing urine – dysuria.
· Inability to pass urine at all – retention.
· Inability to hold urine – incontinence.
· Gradually weakening stream.
· Blood in the urine – hematuria.
· There may be painful ejaculations.
· Erectile dysfunction may develop with time.
Other symptoms will depend on whether the cancer has spread and which parts have been affected. For example, if there are metastases in the spinal cord, signs of neurological deficiencies will be noticed. One such symptom is inability to control the bowels – fecal incontinence. On the other hand if the spread has reached the bones, there may be bone pain complaints.
Causes of prostate cancer
Like many other cancers the cause is not known. There are however, factors that appear to increase the chances of getting it. Some of these risk factors are:
· Age. Aging seems to increase the risk. It is commonly seen in men above 60 and rarely seen in those under 40.
· History of a sexually transmitted illness. Those who have suffered from gonorrhea have a higher risk.
· Certain drugs used for pain and inflammation also seem to raise the chances of the cancer’s occurrence.
· Some studies suggest that vasectomy increases prostate cancer risk.
· Agricultural herbicides. Many veterans of the Vietnam War who were exposed to ‘Agent Orange’ (a herbicide combination weapon) have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
· A diet rich in red meat.
How prostate cancer is diagnosed
The history the patient gives and the clinical examination findings by the doctor will necessitate further investigations. Initially the doctor will do a direct rectal examination (DRE). This will help him asses the state of the prostate through the rectum.
Laboratory investigations include taking blood for the Prostate Specific Antigen levels PSA).
Prostate and surrounding areas scans help identify whether the cancer is present and if it has spread.
A tissue biopsy may be taken or histological examination.
Surgery is done in many cases. This usually involves the removal of the prostate gland either through the abdomen or through the urethra – trans-urethral resection of the prostate (TURP).
Radiotherapy. There are many techniques employed to kill the cancer cells by radiation. These include the conventional radiotherapy and radioactive implants in the prostate that continuously emit radiations to the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is yet another form of treatment. It is particularly important in cases where metastasis has occurred. Newer drugs are also used to suppress the production of testosterone.
Removal of the testicular tissue is sometimes done in order to lower testosterone production. In turn this slows the multiplication and spread of the cancerous cells.
Prostate cancer statistics
· Prostate cancer is a major cancer killer only second to lung cancer in the U.S.
· According to the American Cancer Society, the projection for the year 2015 is that about 200000 new cases will be diagnosed.
· About 27000 prostate cancer related deaths will occur.
· 1 in every 7 men will be diagnosed with the cancer.
· For those over 65 years, 6 out of 10 men will be diagnosed with the cancer.
Prostate cancer despite its relatively high incidence is disease that can largely be contained if detected early. As mentioned above many men die with it rather than from it.