Side effects

Even though prostate cancer treatment can improve your health, it can also reduce your quality of life. Each treatment comes with side effects, and some of these can make you unwell or create a number of new practical issues that were not there before. Because of this, it will help you if you know about all the possible side effects for each treatment before you start. You can read more about treatment side effects in one of the booklets in this series: Managing prostate cancer treatment side effects in younger men.

Work

‘People need support in terms of how their business life is perceived or what their career life is like.’

Starting prostate cancer treatment can affect your work life because you may need to take time off to travel to treatment centres or to recover from treatment procedures. You may not be able to do physically demanding work soon after some treatments. Some side effects from treatments can affect your work performance, which means you may need to take frequent or longer breaks during the day or periods away from work.

If you are an employee, your employer should have a clear leave entitlement policy. It may be useful for you to check what leave entitlements you have and to use them to manage the time you need off for treatment or recovery. Speak with someone in your Human Resources department about how to access your employee support scheme (e.g. Employee Assistance Program). Many organisations are linked to professional organisations as part of their employee wellbeing program. 

Most employers are sympathetic to people with cancer. An honest discussion with your employer about the effects of your treatment and how these may impact your work may be useful. However, it is up to you as to whether or not to tell your employer that you have prostate cancer. A cancer diagnosis is personal information that you don’t always have to share with anybody if you don’t want to. You can talk with your doctor about the wording of your medical certificates so that your cancer diagnosis is not revealed. If you choose to tell your employer, maybe think about why you want to tell them and what you want them to do. You could go to your employer with suggestions for how they could help you (e.g. flexible hours).

If you are self–employed or casual, you will need to arrange work demands to deal with your situation. By making a plan to organise your work life and finances, you will be better able to manage the changes caused by treatment demands. 

Continuing to work after being diagnosed, or resuming work after treatments, can help by giving you a sense of normality in spite of changes caused by prostate cancer. Not everyone is able to work, and some may want to leave work or cut back on hours or duties. It is important for you to decide the best work arrangement is for you.

For more information, see Cancer, work & you – information for employed people affected by cancer (Cancer Council NSW).

Financial costs

The Australian Government subsidises the cost of listed prescription medicine to all residents and eligible overseas visitors through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Not everything relating to your cancer treatment may be covered by the scheme so check with your doctor when they prescribe a medication or refer you to a service. If you have private health insurance, check what your policy will cover so that you are prepared for any possible financial outlays.

Each State and Territory has a government–funded scheme to help patients who have to travel long distances to obtain specialist treatment that is not available locally.

Talk to a member of your healthcare team (e.g. social worker) about what financial and practical support services are available. Talk to your local Medicare office about the ‘Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net’ and the ‘Medicare Safety Net’ on costs of medications and medical bills.

Also, the fees that specialists charge for consultations and services can be different from one to another. A good idea is to ask what the fees are before your first consultation.

There may be other life changes and issues that are causing concerns for you. Please read the section: Maintaining wellbeing in younger men with prostate cancer, which discusses some of the common issues that people in a similar situation have faced.