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Prostate Cancer

How prostate cancer affects families

Almost all the men said that they had informed other members of their family about their diagnosis of prostate cancer. Often wives were present at the consultation when men received the diagnosis or they were told soon afterwards. However, a few men chose not to inform certain relatives because they did not want to worry them. While some men said that relationships within the family had not changed in any way, others said that the diagnosis had altered social interaction within the family to some extent. For example, one man reported that his brother felt embarrassed about the diagnosis and so tended to avoid all social contact and others reported that their children became more attentive and less demanding once they knew about the situation. However, one man reported that his adult children had not really understood the implications of the diagnosis.
 

Suggests that his brother has been very embarrassed by the diagnosis.

Suggests that his brother has been very embarrassed by the diagnosis.

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 61
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My own brother has been too embarrassed to phone me, we haven't spoken, it's now 14 months since I went [for the diagnosis] and it's only in the past week that me and my brother have spoke about it, and even then he couldn't look me in the eye, he couldn't have eye contact when you're talking about it. And I think it's a lack of education where this is concerned.

 

Explains that he has not told certain family members as he does not want to worry them.

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Explains that he has not told certain family members as he does not want to worry them.

Age at interview: 70
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 68
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I haven't told my sister, she lives in X, yes she doesn't know now. And there's family in Walsall and Staffordshire I haven't told any of those.

Do you mind explaining why you prefer not to

I don't want to worry them

You don't want to worry them?

No, no I don't want to worry them. I'm not feeling bad about this in terms of my health, sometimes I can't believe it's happening to me anyway. And if I start to unnecessarily pass that information then what would I be doing it for, would I be doing it for, in order to court sympathy from it, why would I be doing it? I can pass the information as and when I have a problem, which is obviously a problem and something else has got to happen, something else is going to happen to me. But at the moment no I don't see the need to do that.
 

 

Discusses the impact on his wife and children.

Discusses the impact on his wife and children.

Age at interview: 55
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 54
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My wife was with me, she went, my wife's been a wonder with me all the time and she's been my right arm all the way through it. Obviously she's been concerned as much as me because obviously we've been married for 36 years. We were married at 19 years of age and it is a long time to live together with a happy marriage which is very hard to find these days.

Yes we told my son and daughter what I had, but I don't really think it sunk in, I just think they just thought it was dad's got some sort of a bad stomach I think, I don't really think they understood the implications of it at the time, even though they're in their 30s now my children. I don't really think, they think you're sort of invincible because you've not had much wrong with you over the years.

Family members' past experience of cancer, or their knowledge of illness, may affect the way in which they react to the situation and one man pointed out that various members of his immediate family reacted in very different ways. Many men mentioned that their wives and children had been shocked when they heard the news and one man said that his family suffered because he did not want to discuss the situation.
 

Explains how he was shocked at the flood of concern from others

Explains how he was shocked at the flood of concern from others

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 66
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As far as my wife was concerned she was very anxious, she was very anxious indeed, not only her but all her family and my family you know were anxious too. And so I think anything that's needing to know and talking about it and understanding the odds I think is very helpful. But what shocked me most was her shock actually, I should have expected it but I didn't. But then following that is a flood of concern as well you see from other people, sometimes to excess in my case, I'd rather not have too much, but I had no problem talking about it.

 

Describes how positive his wife is.

Describes how positive his wife is.

Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 54
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Yes, what was the impact on the whole family at that point?

Well I kept a lot, there was only [his wife] knew and [name] is a very, very positive person because she'd been through it [she had also had an operation for breast cancer], so she was very, very positive and she, you know I didn't, I just carried on work as normal, or people thought I was normal because of my personality but inside I was, I was very upset. 

 

Considers that it was harder for his family than himself.

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Considers that it was harder for his family than himself.

Age at interview: 71
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 69
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I think it was hardest on my family and people around me rather than on me. I was at the centre of this, it was happening to me and I was pretty sanguine about the whole business I suppose. I felt relieved in a way that the cancer had been diagnosed early and that I would have an opportunity to treat it and recover if one can speak about cancer in that state. But my family were very, it was very difficult for them because I don't, I'm not somebody who discusses my particular complaint with anybody, I suffer alone, I don't spread it about. This was very difficult for my family I suppose.

Informing others can be a positive experience, both because setting out the situation can help to reduce anxiety and because family members can be loving and supportive. Men said that their wives positive attitude had helped them come to terms with the diagnosis, and one man said that the news of his illness had brought him and his wife closer together.
 

Considers that it was harder for his family than himself.

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Considers that it was harder for his family than himself.

Age at interview: 71
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 69
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I think it was hardest on my family and people around me rather than on me. I was at the centre of this, it was happening to me and I was pretty sanguine about the whole business I suppose. I felt relieved in a way that the cancer had been diagnosed early and that I would have an opportunity to treat it and recover if one can speak about cancer in that state. But my family were very, it was very difficult for them because I don't, I'm not somebody who discusses my particular complaint with anybody, I suffer alone, I don't spread it about. This was very difficult for my family I suppose.

Last reviewed July 2017.
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