Newswise – When US Secretary of Defense was Lloyd Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his illness was largely kept secret from the public. Although Austin has faced scrutiny for not being more open about his health, experts say Daniela Wittmann Ph.D., LMSW. say it is often difficult for men to talk openly about prostate cancer.

Wittmann answers some frequently asked questions about the stigma associated with this diagnosis, how it can impact patients and their families, where those struggling can get help, and ultimately, how men can maintain their strength and dignity on this healthcare journey.

What stigma is associated with prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a disease with a high prevalence. One in eight men in the United States has a chance of receiving the diagnosis during their lifetime. If the man is African American, the probability is higher, one in six. Many men prefer to keep a cancer diagnosis secret, often because they dislike the attention to a vulnerability such as a life-threatening illness. Culturally, men prefer to be strong and capable and to be viewed as such. With prostate cancer, there is also the stigma of treatment-related side effects – urine leakage and erectile dysfunction after surgery. Prostate cancer was once thought to be a cancer that would end a man’s sex life.

What feelings does this cause in patients?

Men may feel sad, fearful of the cancer diagnosis, fearful of life-threatening, vulnerable, and/or embarrassing conditions.

How can patients find help?

It is important for men to recognize that prostate cancer is highly treatable and over 98% of men survive 10 years if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early. As for urinary and sexual side effects, 97% of men regain control of their bladder within a year, many much sooner. Physiotherapy and pelvic floor rehabilitation support this process. Erectile dysfunction may improve over time, but even if it doesn’t, men can seek the help of medications or devices and return to sexual intimacy. Therefore, sexual rehabilitation restores a man’s ability to have a sex life after prostate cancer treatment. It is important to educate patients about the chances of survival and rehabilitation after the side effects of treatment so that they can be assured that they will regain their quality of life. In the United States, many men are not informed about the side effects and are not offered rehabilitation. This leaves them and their partners suffering with lifelong effects on their lives. Organizations like that American Cancer Society and online resources such as Malecare And ZERO prostate cancer Providing information and online support.

Do high-profile cases like Austin’s help combat this stigma?

A man in Secretary Austin’s situation has the opportunity to inspire men to get screened for prostate cancer to save lives and hope that they can get their life back when they need treatment. Anyone in a high-level position can be a role model by being open, unembarrassed, and matter-of-fact, which encourages others to seek help. However, in today’s political climate, it can be challenging for people in high positions to be open about their own vulnerability.

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