diagnosed with prostate cancer: managing treatments, support and resources

navigating the healthcare system in canada is crucial to receiving the most timely, and best treatment and care. here’s how you can manage your prostate cancer diagnosis.

prostate cancer is a common form of cancer that develops in the prostate gland, located below the bladder and surrounding the urethra in men. it occurs when cells in the prostate gland undergo abnormal growth and form a tumor. prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing cancer and often remains confined to the prostate, but if left untreated it can become aggressive and spread to other parts of the body.
early detection through regular screenings and a range of treatment options offer effective means to manage and, in many cases, cure prostate cancer. navigating the healthcare system in canada is crucial to receiving the most timely, and best treatment and care.
here’s how you can manage your prostate cancer diagnosis.

understanding your prostate cancer diagnosis

interpreting a prostate cancer diagnosis and understanding its implications can be a challenging process. make sure to request a copy of your pathology report from your healthcare provider. this report contains crucial information about your diagnosis, including the grade and stage of your prostate cancer.

when prostate cancer is detected in a biopsy sample, a pathologist assigns it a grade, determined by the degree of abnormality observed under the microscope.this is called a gleason classification system . cancers with higher grades appear more abnormal and tend to have a greater potential for rapid growth.



the tnm staging system categorizes the extent of the cancer, including the tumor size, lymph node involvement, and metastasis. there are four stages in the tnm system (1 to 4), the higher the number on your pathology report the more the cancer has spread.

prostate-specific antigen (psa) is a blood test used to monitor prostate health. elevated levels may indicate prostate cancer.

early and consistent treatment plays a pivotal role in effectively managing the disease. timely intervention can help control cancer growth, improve the chances of a cure, and minimize any potential complications.
consistent follow-ups with your healthcare team empowers you to monitor your progress, adjust treatment plans as needed, and maintain the best possible quality of life throughout your diagnosis.

finding the right healthcare provider

when selecting a urologist or oncologist specializing in prostate cancer, consider their experience and expertise in treating this specific type of cancer. look for professionals who have a track record of successfully managing prostate cancer cases, stay up-to-date with the latest treatment options, and are part of multidisciplinary teams that can offer comprehensive care.



your primary care physician or family doctor can refer you to a specialist who focuses on prostate cancer. you can also ask for recommendations from friends, family members, or support groups who have experience with prostate cancer.
look for healthcare facilities, hospitals, or cancer centres that specialize in cancer care and have dedicated prostate cancer treatment programs.
canadian prostate cancer care and information, by province and territory:

alberta: visit alberta health services for information on prevention and screening, referrals, patient support, and wellness resources.

british columbia: bc cancer can provide information on diagnosis, staging, and treatment for prostate cancer.

manitoba: cancercare manitoba offers prostate cancer patients and family members with information on screening, treatment and care, and access to healthcare providers.

new brunswick: the new brunswick cancer network offers educational resources, clinical trials information, and a cancer patient navigation program.

newfoundland and labrador: the nl prostate cancer support groups provides free online resources and peer support groups for prostate cancer patients.



nova scotia: visit nova scotia health to learn more about the programs and services available at the province’s two cancer care centres.

ontario: cancer care ontario provides prostate cancer pathway maps to help you better navigate your cancer journey.

prince edward island: the prince edward island government offers online cancer support and information for patients and families.

quebec: the quebec cancer foundation provides individuals with information on screening tests for early detection, cancer treatments, and clinical research.

saskatchewan: the saskatchewan health authority offers prostate assessment information and treatment options.

don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion from another healthcare provider. a second opinion can help you gain a better understanding of your diagnosis and the treatment options available to you.

assembling your healthcare team

along with your primary care physician, your healthcare team will consist of a team of specialists that include:
  • urologist – prostate cancer is often diagnosed and treated by a urologist, who specializes in the urinary tract and male reproductive system. find a reputable urologist with experience in prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.
  • radiation oncologist – radiologists interpret imaging like mris, ct scans, and bone scans to help determine the extent and spread of the cancer. their expertise is crucial for accurate staging.
  • medical oncologist – if chemotherapy or other systemic treatments are needed, a medical oncologist can provide expert guidance and oversee your treatment plan.
  • oncology social worker – an oncology social worker provides support to patients and families dealing with cancer. they offer emotional counseling, connect patients to resources and support services, and help navigate cancer treatment and survivorship.
  • physical therapist – a physical therapist can help address the physical impacts of cancer treatment before surgery, as well as manage or prevent any side effects including pain, weakness, incontinence, and erectile dysfunction
  • palliative care specialist – for advanced stages of prostate cancer, a palliative care specialist can enhance the quality of life, manage symptoms, and provide emotional support for both patients and their families.



remember that assembling the best healthcare team is a big decision that can impact your prostate cancer treatment and overall well-being. take your time to research, ask questions, and consult with multiple healthcare professionals if necessary to ensure you receive the best possible care tailored to your specific needs.

      understanding your treatment options

      understanding your options as a prostate cancer patient can help you make informed decisions about your treatment journey. begin by consulting with your healthcare team. they can provide you with personalized guidance based on your diagnosis and medical history. then take the time to educate yourself on available treatments, including how they align with your treatment goals and any potential side effects.

      here’s a quick overview of the treatment options for prostate cancer :

      • surgery to examine, remove, or repair tissue. if the cancer has not spread, a prostatectomy may be used to remove the prostate gland.
      • radiation therapy for prostate cancer involves the targeted use of high-energy beams to destroy or damage cancer cells within the prostate gland. it’s often used with the goal of curing cancer or alleviating symptoms in advanced cases.
      • hormone therapy or androgen deprivation therapy (adt) to lower the levels of male hormones in the body that stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells or block their effects. adt is often used as an initial treatment or in combination with other therapies to control and manage the disease.
      • chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to attack and slow the growth of cancer cells. it’s often used in advanced or metastatic cases when cancer has not spread beyond the prostate and aims to control the disease and manage symptoms.
      • targeted therapy uses drugs that specifically targets the molecules or processes involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. it’s often used in advanced prostate cancer cases to slow the progression of the disease and minimize harm to healthy cells.

      the type of treatment your healthcare team will recommend will depend on several factors , including:



      • the type, grade, and stage of prostate cancer
      • the symptoms you’re experiencing
      • age, health, and pre-existing medical conditions
      • prostate-specific antigen (psa) levels
      • possible treatment side effects
      • personal preferences

      accessing financial support and coverage

      a prostate cancer diagnosis often leads to many unforeseen medical expenses, including reduced earning potential and additional caregiving costs. access to monetary support can significantly ease the financial burden associated with the diagnosis and treatment of canadian prostate cancer patients.
      the government of canada offers a number of financial assistant programs and tax credits for prostate cancer patients and their caregivers, including:
      • the employment insurance (ei) sickness benefit provides short-term financial aid (up to 15 weeks) for eligible unemployed workers.
      • the ei compassionate care benefit provides financial assistance to support individuals who need to take time off work to care for a family member who is gravely ill and at risk of dying within six months. the program aims to provide temporary income support (up to 26 weeks) to help caregivers during a difficult and emotional time.
      • the family caregiver benefit for adults offers financial aid to caregivers who are providing care or assistance to adults over the age of 18 who are facing critical illness or injury. through this benefit, eligible caregivers can receive a maximum of 15 weeks of financial assistance.
      • the canada pension plan disability benefit provides financial assistance to individuals facing a prolonged disability that prevents them from working on a regular basis. as part of the canada pension plan, it offers supplemental income for those who are unable to work due to a disability.



      canadian tax credits include:
      • the canada caregiver credit (ccc) is a tax credit available for individuals caring for a spouse or common-law partner with a physical or mental impairment.
      • the medical expense tax credit (metc) is a tax credit offered by the canada revenue agency to help individuals offset some of the costs associated with eligible medical expenses.
      you can also explore provincial health programs, private insurance, and non-profit organizations that offer financial aid. reach out to healthcare providers, social workers, and patient advocacy groups for guidance on what financial support resources you’re eligible for.

      utilizing support services

      there are a variety of support services available to help canadian prostate cancer patients navigate their diagnosis, treatment, and overall well-being.

      cancer support organizations like the canadian cancer society , prostate cancer foundation canada , and local cancer support groups offer a wealth of educational resources, support services, hotlines, and online communities.

      you can also join local or online support groups specifically for prostate cancer patients. these groups offer a safe and empathetic environment to exchange information and receive emotional support from others who have faced similar health challenges.

      if you’re struggling to overcome the emotional and mental toll caused by your diagnosis, counseling or psychotherapy services can help address the psychological effects of living with prostate cancer. therapists can help patients and their families cope with anxiety, depression, and the high stress levels that often accompanies a cancer diagnosis. plus, holistic therapies, such as meditation, yoga, and massage therapy can also help you better manage stress and improve relaxation throughout your cancer treatment.



      a healthy, well-balanced diet can also improve your recovery from prostate cancer, contributing to a longer, healthier life. consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can provide guidance on maintaining a healthy diet throughout your treatment and recovery.

      living with prostate cancer in canada

      for men living with prostate cancer in canada, navigating the journey can be challenging. but with the right approach and support, you can effectively manage your condition and maintain a good quality of life.

      prostate cancer patients may encounter challenges in their daily life such as fatigue, changes in urinary and sexual function, and emotional distress. open communication with healthcare providers is key to overcoming these challenges. they can offer guidance on symptom management, lifestyle adjustments, exercise, and counseling.

      individuals affected by prostate cancer should feel empowered to ask questions, seek out second opinions, and actively participate in treatment decisions. being well-informed about treatment options and potential side effects allows patients to make better choices that align with their values and goals.
      effectively navigating the healthcare system when diagnosed with prostate cancer in canada can ensure timely access to specialized care, treatment options, and support services. by playing an active role in your cancer diagnosis and treatment you’ll improve the chances of successful outcomes and enhance your well-being during and after prostate cancer treatment.



      sharing your experiences navigating the canadian healthcare system as a prostate cancer patient can provide valuable insights and support to others facing similar challenges. if you’ve recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, consider joining local support groups or subscribing to resources that offer information, guidance, and a sense of community.
      corey deeth is a toronto-based writer. 
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