Doctors have low awareness of challenges faced by PCa ‘survivors’

16 August 2017

Men who have been treated or discharged from hospital following prostate cancer treatment undergo various health and psychological conditions, but awareness of these problems among doctors remains low, according to healthcare professionals.

“One challenge is the need for awareness regarding the numerous problems that patients face after they leave the hospital or even declared cured,” said Prof. Louis Denis (BE) of the Oncology Centre Antwerp and Europa Uomo, a patient advocate group. Denis, a veteran supporter of prostate cancer patient support groups, is a resource speaker in the upcoming EAU Update on Prostate Cancer (PCa17) to be held in Vienna on September 15 and 16.

Organised by the EAU, PCa17 is a comprehensive update that offers practical learning insights on various medical and surgical issues in prostate cancer treatment. It is the first of a planned series, designed for urologists and other cancer specialists, that will also include renal and bladder cancers in future meetings.

Denis underscored that although there are improvements in current treatment strategies given to prostate cancer patients, the post-treatment phase or the years following the initial therapy are also crucial for doctors to carefully look into.

“The urologist accepts responsibility for survivorship (quality of life until death) but expects social healthcare to support the patient’s psychological, social, financial and even spiritual problems,” he said. On the other hand, patient advocates or support groups are also ineffectual when it comes to giving voice to their collective concerns, according to Denis.

“Another challenge is the lack of organised patient support groups in many countries that are capable of claiming their rights and accept their obligations in this complex situation which still differs in all 28 European states,” Denis explained. Prostate cancer, according to health and patients’ advocates, still has a “low profile” in public awareness compared to breast cancer in women or lung cancers which have gained the attention of mass media and celebrity figures.

In Vienna, Denis will speak on the second day afternoon session to convey the importance of holistic care.

“Next to individualised treatment in the management of prostate cancer, we have to maintain interest in the holistic, personalised care involving multi-professional expertise and teams. Many challenges in cancer care apply to most cancers. The input of nursing, technicians, caregivers and- yes, patients– should be recognized and integrated,” he said.

Denis noted that although patients have rights they also have obligations. He also added that he understands the predicament of health providers who have to contend with challenges in “an era of cost-cutting and savings in order to survive budget restrictions in health policies.”

Unique and practical curriculum
Regarding PCa17, Denis said that there is certainly a need for a compact and practical-oriented educational event, which can achieve a lot in providing succinct updates to urologists.

“This is an excellent and unique practical education which can serve European urologists in both private or hospital practice. With a strong faculty and almost obligatory interaction, this would be an addition to the programme of continuing medical education,” he said.

“I hope that PCa17 could also offer the opportunity or prompt the urologist to think out of the box and into the bigger picture of total management of the patient. The meeting covers basic, translational and clinical research in lectures (genetics, molecular, immunology, big data including personalized management),” he said.

Asked what specific ways patients can support current research that would eventually lead to better PCa treatment, Denis said: “Educated patients can be usefully involved in all aspects of medical activities from research to survivorship… Patients and all stakeholders should aim for universal guidelines to be regularly updated. Last but not least, patient groups could play a major role in policies on cancer care on the community level.”

To know more about the aims of PCa17 and details on the Scientific Programme, speakers, registration and other information, visit the meeting website