22 July 2021
Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia has seen a significant spike in distressed men reaching out for support via its new telenursing service, with COVID lockdowns adding to patient stress levels.
Around 70 per cent of callers report moderate or high levels of distress, as many struggle to cope with ongoing uncertainty and the side-effects of their treatment.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men, with over 16,000 diagnosed each year and around 230,000 Australian men living with the disease and its long-term side effects.
PCFA CEO Professor Jeff Dunn AO said many men were suffering in silence.
“What we’re seeing is really concerning and reinforces the vital need for more support services for men with prostate cancer, and their families,” Prof Dunn said.
“Men are feeling isolated and anxious, and need information about testing, treatment options and how to manage the long-term effects of living with prostate cancer.
“A diagnosis of prostate cancer often comes as a great shock, leaving men feeling confused about their prognosis and treatment options.
“Increasing access to telenursing services and promoting informed decision making is essential to improved quality of life and survivorship outcomes.”
The Telenursing Service, launched in March this year, is also taking a high volume of calls from partners of men diagnosed, and daughters, concerned about how best to support their loved ones.
“About one in five men with prostate cancer will experience long-term anxiety and depression, and of very serious concern, men with prostate cancer also face a 70 per cent increased risk of suicide compared to the general population,” Prof Dunn said.
General Manager of the PCFA Telenursing Service, Bernie Riley, said all callers were screened for distress by a specially trained nurse, using an internationally accredited 10-point scale.
“Our callers are desperate to talk with someone who understands prostate cancer, with the majority admitting to feeling moderately or highly distressed about the issues and uncertainty that they’re facing,” Mr Riley said.
“We’re here to spend time talking through their challenges, whatever they may be, providing information and support, and where necessary, referrals to clinical or psychological care options.
“Callers phone us needing support on a wide range of issues, with common themes including distress related to incontinence and erectile dysfunction, or mental health and wellbeing.
“If you need support, please reach out. It’s critical that no one feels like they have to navigate a cancer diagnosis alone, and that no one suffers in silence.”
Prof Dunn said the new service has managed around 870 cases since opening, bringing on additional staff to meet the demand.
“Our new Telenursing Service has quickly proved to be an important addition to our hospital-based Prostate Cancer Specialist Nursing Service, which has around 90 nurses in hospitals and cancer care centres nationwide.
“The uptake of our telenursing service will play a huge role in informing the future direction of care for us as an organisation, help us identity the care gaps, and how we can fill those.
“It’s imperative that we work together, with the support of all levels of Government, to reduce the burden of cancer and ensure men are not navigating this disease alone.
“In the current crisis, our work has never been more important in saving lives.”
For support, phone a PCFA telenurses on 1800 22 00 99 or visit pcfa.org.au. Australians can also request a call back by registering at pcfa.org.au/telenursing-request-form.
To Prostate Cancer Specialist Nursing Service has been made possible thanks to funding from Dry July Foundation, and the community. To donate to Dry July, visit dryjuly.org.au/pcfa
PCFA media contact: Laura McKoy | M. 0435 094 788