Psychological implications


Prostate cancer inevitably implies a psychological involvement. Depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue, panic and other psychological factors are all symptoms and feelings experienced by a man with prostate cancer.

This psychological situation is reflected in interpersonal relationships, often with feelings of shame and inadequacy or lack of self-esteem and confidence in their own person. The interpersonal and psychological aspects seem to take on a greater importance of the physical effects on the patient: emotions often conflicting alternate in the sick person, leading to loss of self-confidence, rejection of their condition, frustration, of diversity conviction, making it increasingly difficult to maintain relationships with others.

Therapies sometimes still aggravate more this situation of instability and uncertainty, causing worries and anxieties often irrational, that may result in more severe cases, depression. There are several ways to handle these emotions, but the first step is to recognize them and talk about it with someone you trust who can be a friend, family member, a doctor, their partner or one psychologist specializing in oncological problems. A suggestion that proves the most suitable in many cases is to resume habits and focus on passions, to ensure that cancer has a less traumatic impact on their lives.


Let's explore the different emotions that a diagnosis of prostate cancer can trigger in the patient. One thing is certain: talking with others is the best approach to overcome negative emotions. Diagnosis of cancer inevitably changes the life, not only the patient but also his family and his social circle. It is, in fact, a disease that has consequences both physical and emotional. Reactions can vary greatly from person to person. Some feel compelled to protect their family and friends, so take a strong and combative attitude. Others seek help and support, contacting their loved ones and dealing with patient associations and cancer survivors. In some cases, they only trust their doctor and rely entirely on his decisions.

For some patients, faith is an essential support mechanism in the development of their condition and living with cancer. Mood swings are very common as well as experiencing more extreme emotions than normal. But what are the emotions that most frequently affect the patient following the diagnosis of prostate cancer? Surely there is not a valid prescription for everyone and every individual can react differently to the problem: dealing with emotions is not easy, but recognizing them can help to accept, manage and react quickly. We will try to give a name to the possible emotions.

Sense of helplessness

After a diagnosis of prostate cancer, you feel overwhelmed, cut down in disbelief (the so-called 'shock phase'), as if the patient has lost control over their lives. The disease seems to become an indelible mark, and seems to carry with it a load of questions that you can not give an answer, including for example:

  • How much I have left to live?
  • How will I take care of my family?
  • Will I continue to work?
  • Will I become dependent on others?
  • Can I continue to do what gives me joy (sports, travel, music, etc.)?
  • Will I still be happy?

Become familiar with medical terms, become familiar with the clinical reference parameters and decide which therapy to begin as well as the other issues which must be addressed. Many patients report feeling helpless and misunderstood, as if no one was able to really understand them. Talk to others, express their anxieties and inquire about the disease and possible therapies are winning strategies for consciously facing and fighting the situation.


It often seems impossible to accept the fact of being sick: and what if the doctor has made the wrong diagnosis? Distrust is a widespread feeling, especially at the start, at time of diagnosis: convincing yourself that you have cancer is like agreeing to be brittle. Denial can be a normal reaction and initially may interfere with the choice of an appropriate care pathway: a person refuses to believe they are sick, they have reservations and question the doctor's claims. In this case it's really important to have a specialist that you have respect and esteem, and expose their doubts to friends and family.

Loss of control and self-confidence

The feeling of loss, helpless and being completely at the mercy of the tumor. They do not have confidence in their ability to recover, because the disease seems invincible. In these cases it is very important to find out:

  • learn statistics and probability of cure;
  • thoroughly analyze the different therapeutic opportunities;
  • choose a doctor or hospital which you can trust;
  • get in touch with patients' associations;
  • keep up to date on the latest medical and scientific evidence.

become familiar with the disease is key to accepting it and learning to live with it.


Why me? This is the most common question in cancer patients. There are questions about the reasons why the disease has struck, and it is possible that this uncertainty will turn into anger: anger at doctors, anger towards the family or friends or acquaintances, anger at the fate or anger toward God for those who are believers. In these cases it is important to talk, vent and, if necessary, consult a psychologist.

Fear and worry

In the popular imagination, the word "cancer" portends dire scenarios of consumption, pain, weakness, death. However, there are various forms of cancer and different stages of severity, so we should not be scared of it, yet, it is necessary, to learn and gather information, have clear pros and cons of the therapies which we undergo and deal with certainty the course of treatment.


Some people react with great fortitude and found reason for hope in the people around them, in the progress of medicine, in everyday activities. The ability to continue to do what gives us joy is an important stimulus to preserve the optimism and confidence in the recovery. In some cases, there seems to be a correlation between a positive attitude towards life and the chances of success of the therapy. Sometimes the stories of other patients who have survived the disease, help to cope better with their condition, as it is very important to maintain habits and keep busy.

Anxiety, fear and stress

The disease, therapies, and the uncertainty of the future very easily lead to a state of anxiety that, if exasperated, can degenerate into stress. Each person manifests anxiety in his/her own way: there are those who indulge in too much food, those who lose their appetite, those who experience arrhythmias, those who experience insomnia, those who sleeps too much, those who can not concentrate, those who feel weaker or hyperactive, etc. Ultimately, there is no unique definition of anxiety and stress. The advice is to always report to your doctor any changes in their physiological or behavioral habits, to be able to intervene in time to solve any problems.

Sadness and depression

After a cancer diagnosis, it is normal to feel sad and defeated; moreover, certain therapies can alter mood and negatively affect the perception of life in general. The sadness is not dangerous in itself, but it can happen that it degenerates into depression, when it becomes persistent when you feel unable to feel other feelings, when you are more easily nervous or suffer mood swings, when you cannot concentrate, when you cry often, when you are unable to see any good, when you think about suicide, etc. Depression may also be associated with changes even physical, such as loss or weight gain, sleep disturbances, bowel problems, frequent headaches, various types of pain, chronic fatigue or hyperactivity, etc. Any alteration of the normal functions of the body or behavior should never be underestimated and we reiterate once again, it is essential to consult your doctor: you may have to resort to a therapy to manage depression (psychological counseling, psychiatric help, etc.).


The disease can be experienced as a burden that weighs on us but also on the other: it is not uncommon for patients to feel the weight and who consider themselves responsible for the worries and the pain they cause to friends and family, if not guilty because their way of life would have contributed to the development of cancer or for not having contacted a doctor in time. Some, then, compare their condition with that of healthy people and feel envy, which often results in a sense of guilt.


Regret, like guilt, blurs the patient's perception and makes him wish he did not make certain mistakes in the course of his life. The fear of death is one of the main causes for the appearance of regret: one would like to go back, correct their behavior, make more courageous decisions, or simply act better than in the past. Regret, however, is a distorted way of looking back, that prevents you from looking forward and giving an order of most significant priority to their own values and needs. Again, it is vital to talk to people you trust, who can help you overcome this stage and stop blaming yourself.


The disease can be experienced as something so intimate that it seems almost impossible that others can understand: in these cases, patients feel lonely, distant from others and tend to isolate themselves more and more, making it difficult to family and friends to help them. It may also happen that, at the end of therapy, the patient feels abandoned, because the attention of doctors and family is no longer focused solely on him.

Gratitude and inner strength

Sometimes patients react to the diagnosis of a tumor with renewed enthusiasm for life and consider their time special: devote more energy to their projects, recover lost relationships, travel and rediscover forgotten passions. Devote time to those things, people or gestures that make us happy to find your joy in life, even in the contingent condition of the disease. There is no right or wrong way to behave, as there is no solution applicable to all the above conditions. The only real help can come only by opening up to others, sharing feelings and talking openly with whoever seems most suitable for this purpose: a relative, a friend, a doctor, a psychologist, a spiritual guide, a cancer survivor, etc.

Look at beautiful things and focus on the positive aspects of one's life is undoubtedly a winning strategy to avoid being bent by illness; react constructively. On the other hand, you do not have to force yourself to be happy, carefree and optimistic at all costs, even to cheer up those around us and to never be afraid to express their emotions, no matter how unpleasant or worrying they may be. We also stressed that it is useless to blame oneself: instead of looking for mistakes and missteps in your past, you have to react quickly and take back control of your life. In order to maintain a positive attitude, it is sometimes enough to spend some time alone, try relaxing, exercising, eating in a healthy and balanced way, avoiding alcohol consumption and sleeping regularly. 

Often simply organizing appointments and routines in detail allows for a greater feeling of control over their lives and managing the disease. For some it may be therapeutic even write their thoughts in a diary or paint, to give voice to their fears and adapt better to the diseased condition.


    • Mayo Clinic
    • NIH National Cancer Institute
    • We Are MacMillan Cancer Support
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