Penile Cancer

The support of others

How men respond to a diagnosis of penile cancer is likely to be different in each case. Whatever the response, the support of family, friends and others can be a key factor in helping men cope physically and mentally.
As the first signs of penile cancer can be small changes in the penis, it can be difficult to decide if and when it is appropriate to seek medical advice. Wives, partners, and friends were instrumental in encouraging some men to seek professional help by noticing and discussing changes.
From noticing the first signs of penile cancer to diagnosis, treatment and aftercare, there will be many points along the way when men with penile cancer will want to share their problems (see `Telling others’). Some of the men we interviewed didn’t share their concerns about the early signs because they didn’t want to worry those close to them unnecessarily. Others were accompanied at appointments by their wife or partner or another family member, which can make it easier to discuss anxieties about what is happening to them.
The majority of men we spoke to experienced sympathy from people they told and sometimes received offers of support (see `Telling others’).

Visiting at home and the hospital and meeting up socially, family and friends can provide a valuable support network by allowing the man to share anxieties and worries throughout the course of his treatment. Other groups, such as religious and charitable groups, can also provide support. At times, concerns about future health can become overwhelming, dwarfing other worries such as money. This meant that some men felt that at times that they were being selfish, concerned only with themselves. Nevertheless, these men say that they are grateful for the support they have received and feel as if they could never pay it back.
Several of the men we talked to mentioned the value of practical support which was offered to them by friends and relatives, including finding information (see `Information on penile cancer’), travel and shopping.
Many men find the emotional impact of the illness difficult to deal with but their network of family and friends were particularly supportive in this regard. They can provide comfort by going with them to consultations or they can help talk through their worries and prepare them for appointments. Illness can bring financial difficulties, with which friends and family can help.
It can be helpful to talk to other patients about their experience of illness and treatment. As penile cancer is rare, men with penile cancer are unlikely to come across others with the same condition. Penile cancer patients may experience similar treatments to other patients, for example men who have experienced other cancers may also have had lymph nodes removed and catheterisation is a process commonly used when treating a range of conditions. Some of the men interviewed found the hospital wards provided a supportive environment and by speaking to other men they were able to gain and offer support to others.
For men who are still in employment, balancing work life with treatments can be difficult. A supportive employer can make a big difference, allowing patients to focus their attention on getting better. For some men support from employers may not be forthcoming and they may be required to take unpaid leave, causing financial stresses (see ‘Work and finances’). Most men found that their employers told them to prioritise their recovery over work commitments and said that they should take time off during treatments.
Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated January 2015.


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