One to One

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on support groups for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

One to One makes two: New programs aim to support men diagnosed with prostate cancer

Even though Phil Fess is battling his second bout of prostate cancer, helping other men with the disease helps him remain more positive about his own prognosis.

That's why he's the point man in Collier County for a new program launched recently by the American Cancer Society called One to One. The new program pairs prostate cancer patients with other prostate cancer survivors for support.

Fess fields calls from prostate cancer patients and matches them with other survivors, who are available by phone or to meet with the patient in person to calm fears and offer advice.

"I had one call from a man who was suicidal, but he didn't speak English, so I found someone who spoke Spanish to support him," said Fess, 70, a retired college professor. "We were able to settle him down and let him know that prostate cancer is not a death sentence. We try to let men know that prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer and there are many treatment options available."

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men in Florida and is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men nationwide, according to the Cancer Society. This year, an estimated 189,00 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and an estimated 30,200 will die from the disease.

"Often, when a man is newly-diagnosed he's all shook up and everything is a blur," Fess said. "We're here to help them bring their diagnosis into focus and offer encouragement."

The new program is so important, Fess said, because men often need support, but aren't as likely as women to reach out when they face a cancer diagnosis or to admit their condition publicly. Indeed, none of the men locally benefiting from the new One to One program were willing to be interviewed for this story.

"Women with breast cancer have mobilized to form support systems and to lobby for more research into their disease," Fess said. "It's important for men with prostate cancer to become more vocal so we can create awareness and gain resources to fight such a common cancer in men."

The American Cancer Society is forming another new program, Advocacy Man to Man - a statewide lobbying organization - which seeks to do just that.

"The American Cancer Society, Florida Division's Man to Man Advocacy process will mobilize the state's prostate cancer survivors to call upon lawmakers to increase funding for prostate cancer research and awareness," said Tom Thrasher, the Society's Man to Man state coordinator. "More research is desperately needed to develop better screening and treatment methods."

Current screening recommendations by the Society include the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam annually beginning at age 50. Men at high risk for prostate cancer (men with a family history of the disease and African Americans) should begin the screenings at age 45. The prostate is the gland in men that surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra.

African American men have the highest prostate cancer incidence in the world. Incidence rates are 47 percent higher for African American men than white men, and mortality rates are more than twice as high for African American men than white men.

To increase awareness, the Cancer Society's Florida Division plans to hold 16 African American Men's Health Summits across the state over the next 12 months. The focus will be to encourage men to talk to their doctors about their prostate health and explain the benefits of informed decision-making about treatment.

Once diagnosed, the prognosis for any prostate cancer patient depends on the extent of the cancer, a man's age and more. The most radical treatment is removal of the prostate, but it's not necessary in every case. Men can also choose chemotherapy, radiation or having radioactive seeds implanted. Hormone therapy is another option. In some cases, a physician may recommend simply waiting and watching to monitor the status of the usually slow-growing cancer.

"Facing these decisions can be difficult, and it's even harder for men who try to make them alone," Fess said. "That's why we're here to help."

Fess was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1994. He was treated with the implantation of radioactive seeds into his prostate to kill the cancer. He was disease-free for seven years, but the cancer came back in January of last year. He tried hormone therapy, but it didn't work. The next step was chemotherapy.

"I recently finished my chemotherapy, and I'm just trying to stay positive," Fess said. "I think it's really important to stay optimistic."

Fess said he gets support from a friend, Andy Caplis, who also had prostate cancer recur. Caplis also participates in the One to One program. Both men also regularly attend a local support group for men with prostate cancer.

"It really helps to share with other men," Caplis said. "Different doctors have different recommendations, and it helps to hear how other men have dealt with it."
Source: Beth Francis, or

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