“Although survival rates for newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients are very high, most of them will likely suffer significant treatment-related side effects, depression, or anxiety, affecting their quality of life.”

That’s the background information provided in a recently published study in the journal European Urology. It found that a program developed by researchers at Dalhousie University reduces psychological distress in men being treated for prostate cancer. 

According to a Dalhousie University media release, prostate cancer patients who participated in the Prostate Cancer Patient Empowerment Program (PC-PEP) were found to have “significantly lower” rates of anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychological distress compared with patients who received standard care. 

“To our knowledge, PC-PEP is the first program in the world to activate the role of the patients in their own care, educate and empower them for six months straight and beyond if they want to remain connected,” Dr. Gabriela Ilie, project lead and Dalhousie University Endowed Soillse Scientist in Prostate Cancer Quality of Life Research, said in the release.

“It includes 70 minutes of daily prescribed activities in all domains of living, that have been evaluated scientifically to result in meaningful improvements in mental health at six and twelve months of follow up.”

Online physical, mental, social support

The program was developed by Ilie and Dr. Rob Rutledge, an oncologist and associate professor at Dalhousie University. It provides six months of online physical, mental, and social support to men being treated for prostate cancer to help reduce the high rates of treatment side effects and mental health issues.

The pair describe the PC-PEP initiative as cost-effective, convenient, and reliable. 

The study looked at the program’s impact on two groups of men ranging in age from 50 to 82 years old. All were scheduled for prostate cancer surgery or radiotherapy.

At six months, patients in the study’s control group had almost four times higher odds for psychological distress and need for psychological treatment than men who received the program. 

“PC-PEP delivered early following diagnosis significantly prevented the burden of psychological distress in men undergoing curative prostate cancer treatment,” the authors wrote.

More information about the program can also be found via this video

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor who enjoys covering health, science, research, and education.

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