Prostate Cancer Support Groups

‘You know, most of us look at the word cancer and say, ‘Oh, that is going to do us in,’ but it’s not the case with prostate cancer.’ Carleton Merrill has beaten prostrate cancer, and today he helps other men fight one of the toughest battles of their lives.

“There is an emotional pit that you go into,” he said, “and many of the men that I’ve talked to say, ‘Let’s be perfectly honest about it.’ I don’t mind saying I had a breakdown in the doctor’s office. I cried. I had cancer and I didn’t know how to handle it. And I don’t mind passing that experience on to others. And generally the men will say ‘Yes, we’ve had that problem in the household, and particularly with members of the family.’ But once you put that aside and say we’re going to go for the treatment option that we’ve selected, life goes on.”

Every year prostate cancer strikes between 160,000 to 200,000 men. “Prostate cancer right now is the number-one cancer in adult men,” said Dr. Jeffrey. Ten years ago Dr. Lamount started a prostate cancer support group after attending a medical conference where he got an idea on how to help a struggling patient.

“And I came back from the meeting and immediately called him up and said, ‘I have an idea, we’re going to start a prostate support group. We’re going to gather patients together, let them talk about their experiences, and provide an opportunity for you and others like yourself, to meet with other patients, not just doctors,’” he said.

For Carleton Merrill, the support group has been a place to both provide encouragement, and to receive it. “You have to understand where the average fellow is coming from,” he said. “Women talk about breast cancer all the time, it’s an open subject, but men do not want to talk about prostate cancer. And this is a shame, but we do find that when they are with a group, they can open up,” he said with a grin.

According to Dr. Lamount, those connections are priceless. “Oftentimes that patient-to-patient interaction is far more beneficial and more realistic many times than the advice the physician offers. They’re living with it every day,” he said.

“We know the side effects,” said Carleton, “we’ve been through it. Some urologists, they’re wonderful people, they do a good job, but they haven’t been through it.”

With an age range of 40 to 90, experts recommend an annual physical as the best method of detection. “Earlier screening is clearly detecting cancers at an earlier stage,” notes Dr. Lamount. “Using PSA, the prostate blood test, and an annual examination, we are diagnosing prostate cancer at much earlier stages that we did even five or ten years ago. And we’ve already seen the evidence that that’s leading to a decline in the death rate from prostate cancer. We are definitely making improvements here.”

Part of that improvement comes from the support groups, which make it easier for men to talk about some of the side effects of prostate cancer, such as impotence and incontinence. “It’s not easy for a fellow to talk about the fact that he’s incontinent,” says Carleton. “I like to kid about the fact that, heck, I was the greatest supporter of Serenity Pads for a couple of months. You know, and I didn’t mind saying it. You joke about these things. I had to kid about the catheter that I had to wear when I first came home. I went into the bathroom one day and emptied it and forgot to close it up, and I’m walking around the house and my wife is saying, ‘Hey, you’re going all over the house!’ And we laugh about it. But I don’t mind turning these things into a little laughing matter. And when you get people laughing and enjoying, now, you get the message out.”

Dr. Lamount echoes Carleton’s message, “I think the benefits of a disease-specific support group, such as the prostate cancer support group, allow more in-depth discussion about the peculiar or specific problems of prostate cancer,” he said.