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What Are Key Prostate Cancer Questions to Ask Care Team Members?

What Are Key Prostate Cancer Questions to Ask Care Team Members? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

What are key prostate cancer questions to ask care team members? Host Dr. Nicole Rochester and Dr. Yaw Nyame, and Dr. Petros Grivas provide information about vital questions to ask care providers about prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment options to work toward improved quality of life and equitable healthcare.

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What Barriers Do Prostate Cancer Patients Face When Seeking Care?

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Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

I’d love for each of you to share maybe a couple of key questions that patients, our care partners facing prostate cancer should ask of their treatment team to ensure that they’re receiving appropriate care. 

So, we’ll start with you, Dr. Nyame. Any key questions that patients should be asking their care team when they seek treatment or diagnosis of prostate cancer? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely, I think that there’s a long list. Actually, I’ll tell you, my new prostate cancer diagnoses visits are usually my longest because there’s a lot to consider. I do think depending on what you’re having done and what you’re being considered for, so let’s say in the localized setting, prostate cancer is confined to the prostate, and you’re thinking about treatment like a surgery or radiation therapy, you really want to know what that center and what that provider’s experience is because we have a lot of supporting evidence that the more people doing this…no one’s going to be surprised by what I’m about to say, but the more that someone does is the better they’re going to be at it. Okay, and so making sure your team has a good experience with what you’re seeking to have done is important, and I think it’s well within your rights as a patient to understand that, so I think advocate for that. Secondly, I think basic questions, just to understand the relationship, I think…I like it when patients want to know a little bit about me because I’m going to be…they’re going to be in my hands. And so again, the importance of that relationship building and your visit is crucial. 

Lastly, I think when you come to the visit, have a list of questions based off of what you’ve researched and write them down, I find my most sophisticated patients or crossing off questions as I’m talking, because they came prepared and so that preparation…the act of doing a little bit of reading, there are a lot of resources, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, for instance, has a very nice patient guide that’s written by patients and language that’s really digestible and edited by experts, and so going through that and coming with your list of questions, I think is a really important thing for your visit, and those are just a few things I can think of that can lead to a meaningful clinic visit and exchange. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Excellent, I’m a huge fan of questions and being prepared for visits. What about you, Dr. Grivas, are there one or two key questions that you feel patients or their care partners should ask? 

Dr. Grivas: 

Great answers by Dr. Nyame, I totally agree. I think started with the basics, “What this diagnosis means for me, what is the current extent of the cancer,” we call the states, and “What is the outlook, what is the overall prognosis or at least estimate of the outcome?” That’s a reasonable question to ask and again some places more detail, some others may not, and it’s important for us also to ask the base and what they want to know, how much they want to know, I would take in things of them, they want to know the entirety of the information because it makes…help them make decisions. The other, I think it’s important point, “What are the treatment options and what is the intent of the treatment, what are we trying to achieve by giving treatment, Are we trying to cure, eradicate or eliminate the culture, are we to prolong life, are we trying to improve quality of life or are we just trying control the cancer? So, what are the goals of the treatment and what are the metrics of success, so what will be a successful outcome of that treatment? How do we measure that?” And I think it’s also important. 

Two more points, I would if I may. I think, again, going back to the importance of genetic counseling even more in prostate cancer, I think we recognize the importance in the aspect of patient treatment because some treatment options may depend on finding mutations. But also, the importance of the family, how much can prevent cancers in the brother family, close and extended family, if we find the mutation, can we set this mutation for other family members and do screening to prevent cancer prevention is ideal if we can do that and I think that’s a good discussion, so the patient can come to the visit if possible, by doing some homework about the family history. It’s hard for of us now, what’s happening in that chasm, right? But we do have the time to be informed of the importance of the question, this can help and expedite in our resources like to genetic counseling. And the last points, research, I want to again make the point, we should all do a better job to offer innovative clinical trials to patients across races, and it should be a very important point again equitable healthcare. And the patient should ask are clinical trials an option for me and do I have a clinical trial option? And I think it’s a great question, and hopefully this can help the patient get to integrative treatment, but also help the field. 

The research would get important answers, and the important answers can be for all the community and the specific populations, if we do trials, clinical trials with only the white patients, do we have the answer for the Black patients, or we have the answer for both and other races and ethnicities as well. 

Dr. Nyame: 

And I do want to take this opportunity to add one more thing because Dr. Grivas was talking about what does your treatment mean for you, and in this discussion about prostate cancer, we cannot talk about what questions do you bring without mentioning the impact, quality of life of our treatments? And I think that sometimes this is the elephant in the room that leads to the decision to not pursue treatment, and so I want to take this opportunity as the urologist to say this is the time to talk about what treatment is going to do for sexual function. This is the time to talk about what treatment means for your urinary symptoms and quality of life, a good and healthy discussion around these things need to happen during your visit, because I think sometimes what patients expect to have happen with treatment and reality don’t match. And you have an expert in front of you that can really give you some input as to what to expect, and in a similar vein, when you meet with survivors, these are some of the things that I know patients tell me they’re worried about, and these are people who are living it, that can give you really valuable information on that piece of quality of life, and I hope that those conversations can help us close that treatment disparity that we see between Black men and white men with prostate cancer. 

Top Tips and Advice for Prostate Cancer Patients and Caregivers Navigating Treatment

Top Tips and Advice for Prostate Cancer Patients and Caregivers Navigating Treatment from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

What should prostate cancer patients and caregivers know about prostate cancer treatment? Dr. Leanne Burnham shares advice for patients with concerns about treatment side effects, information about active surveillance, and some specific advice for Black men with prostate cancer.

See More From the Prostate Cancer TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center

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Dr. Leanne Burnham

Yes, so it is a couples’ disease for sure, and you want to make sure to do a little bit of your own research. Make sure that your doctor knows how this disease affects Black men differently, because what I see a lot of time, even in my own family, my husband’s family members that get prostate cancer and they come to me, a lot of times, their doctor will recommend active surveillance. And it may not be appropriate for African American men if you look at the research and you look at the studies. And so, it may benefit you to just ask your doctor, “Do you treat a lot of Black patients, or do you see any difference in their survival rates versus your other patients?” And really consider that when you’re thinking about whether to do active surveillance or not. Once it gets time for treatments, one thing when I — because I talk to a lot of men and support groups, and men are scared, they don’t want to lose their urinary function, they don’t want to lose their sexual function. And so, they’re nervous about certain diseases and in terms of surgeries and radical prostatectomy, there are nerve-sparing surgeries now to really protect that function afterwards, and there are exercises that can be done afterwards to also help improve, and so ask the nurses in your setting, “What are some of those exercises that can be done?” But one thing to keep in mind is every treatment comes with its sort of risk, right?

So, no matter whether you choose radiation or surgery, there’s always a risk that you may lose some of that function, what I tell men, and not to sound not sensitive to the matter, but a lot of men, they’ll say, you know, “Oh, if I get this treatment and what if I can’t have sex anymore?” You’re not going to have sex when you’re buried 6 feet underground either. And so, you want to be able to get those treatments, the ones that you and your physician have a shared decision in and in deciding what’s best as a couple. But you don’t want to be naive if you’re at the doctor and you have a really elevated PSA and you have a Gleason score of 8, and your doctor is telling you, “We really need to treat this,” you don’t want to shy away from that, because you’re scared of the side of the side effects in that setting. You can look for where the best surgery center is if they have the nerve-sparing surgery, as I said, and explore your options that way. But don’t put it off so long, because you’re worried about the side effects. And if you don’t get treatment and your doctor wants you to, as time goes on, you’ll lose the urinary function and the sexual function anyways.

So yeah, it’s not something that you want to put off because you’re scared about the side effects. And a lot of men do have side effects temporarily, and then they regain their function, and I really encourage to join support groups virtually now because of how the role is set up. But just talk to some other men that have had some of these procedures and see how they’re doing. And I personally haven’t met a man that felt like, “Oh, I have been cured from prostate cancer, and now I have the side effects, and I wish I wouldn’t have had the procedure,” I haven’t met one. And I know in those who have side effects and they had surgeries and 10, 15 years ago, and they have side effects, I’m not going to act like that doesn’t happen. But none of them have ever expressed to me that they wish they could go back in time and not do that, because, at the end of the day, they’re grateful that they are still here with their loved ones.