Prostate Cancer: It's good to talk

Prostate Cancer: It’s good to talk

by Roger Linn

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in the UK, with over 40,000 new diagnoses made every year. If you or someone close to you is affected, it may help to talk to others in the same situation.

First, some hard data: It is a well known fact that about one in eight men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Older men and those with a family history of prostate cancer are more at risk. The average age for men to be diagnosed is between 70 and 74 years, but younger men can be affected too.

When Jenny Stanger’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years ago, she found information and advice very hard to come by, with the nearest support group some distance away. It was her determination to set up a Prostate Cancer Support Group in Haywards Heath that was the driving force behind the formation of the group last year. Its first meeting in July 2012 was attended by 47 people, and any fears that nobody might come are now well and truly laid to rest.

Jenny told me, “I wanted to provide a meeting place or a forum, where men affected by prostate cancer and their wives or partners could come along and exchange information and experiences. It’s really good to be able to talk with people who are in the same situation.” And she made the obvious point that anybody who is affected in any way at all by prostate cancer is welcome to come along to the group’s regular meetings.

Ian Cooper was diagnosed with prostate cancer 11 years ago and is now having intermittent treatment as required. Coincidentally, he found himself in the same Pilates group as Jenny, and when he heard about her intention to form the support group, he offered to chair it. “That first meeting really showed us that there was a need for the group,” he told me. “Many of the men came with their wives, and two women came along on their own to find out as much as they could because their partners simply wouldn’t discuss the issue.” Apparently, this is a very common phenomenon and means that partners who want to support their loved ones can be deprived of the information they need because, generally, men won’t talk about illness and especially not about prostate problems.

At the moment, the Prostate Cancer Support Group meets three times a year at the Dolphins Practice in Haywards Heath. There is one meeting in March to coincide with Prostate Cancer Awareness Month; one in the summer and one in November to go along with ‘Movember’ when men are sponsored to grow moustaches in support of Prostate Cancer UK.

Guest speakers, such as the distinguished oncologist, Dr David Bloomfield, are regularly invited to attend meetings, and at the upcoming 7th November meeting, Dawn Hughes, a specialist nurse, will take about clinical trials.

I asked Jenny how willing people were to talk about their experiences and to ask questions. “Once they realise that everything said is confidential and never leaves the room, people are quite happy to open up,” she replied. “And Ian manages the Q&A session brilliantly, so that everybody gets the opportunity to contribute.” The Support Group isn’t qualified to offer medical advice to individuals, but it does provide shared experience, reassurance and encouragement to all its members.

To find out more about the Prostate Cancer Support Group in Haywards Heath, please contact Jenny Stanger on 07733 320549,