Ignore the mind at your peril.
As more of us get vaccinated against COVID-19, it finally seems that we may slowly come out of lockdown and achieve some degree of normality. But the pandemic is a global problem and as variants of concern which are trying to avoid the vaccines emerge, we realise that this is a long road and we may have to live with the virus for a while.
Apart from the large numbers of people infected and dying of the viral infection, one of the most striking features of lockdown has been the effect on people’s mental health. In the last 20 years I have also come to realise that as a surgeon, purely focussing on removing prostate cancer by robotic surgery is not enough. The effect the disease has on the mental health of patients must not be underestimated.
In a recent paper presented by my group at an international meeting, we showed that over 17% of patients with prostate cancer cancer have depression and nearly 10% have suicidal thoughts. We ignore the minds of these patients at our peril.
It is also well known that surgery and radiotherapy are equally effective at treating localised prostate cancer. The younger, fitter men tend to have a robotic radical prostatectomy with the older men choosing radiotherapy. I also ask my patients if they are able to “live with the cancer inside them” - in their minds, so to say. Those who cannot, tend to choose surgery over other treatments.
We have also invested heavily in our survivorship and mind and body programs where patients have access to counselling and holistic therapy as part of their journey to beat prostate cancer and the after effects of any treatment. Many patients and their partners find this bespoke, team based approach to their cancer very helpful.
To win the battle against prostate cancer we must win the minds of our patients.