Bladder cancer is a painful and sometimes life-threatening condition that patients can find difficult to talk about, with many becoming home bound as they manage with debilitating side effects such as incontinence. Bladder cancer mainly starts between the ages of 50 and 80 years old; affecting men at a ratio of 3:1, and is increasing with an ageing population in Australia.
As with prostate and other male cancers; the majority of support and care is taken by the wife, spouse or an immediate family member. However the responsibility and burden of the couple’s combine cancer ‘journey’ has been explore; by researchers in nursing and medicine at Flinders University.
The study has underpin a new model of care for people diagnose, with bladder cancer focusing on their partners and family; and their needs from the healthcare system for use in urology and other settings. While little discuss; but bladder cancer is characterize by recurrence and progression so often needs ongoing surveillance and treatment.
Chronic ill health and complications associate with treatment can put additional pressure on the patient; as well as their spouse, partner and family; says College of Nursing and Health Sciences researcher Dr. Susan Heyes, who conduct qualitative research with 10 couples to assess their experiences.
Dr. Heyes says the battle with bladder cancer can run over several decades, with the treatments, including chemo or surgery; and sometimes co-morbidities taking a toll on all involved. “They are often too ill or in too much pain to be bother with activities outside the home. It also can see a couple becoming quite confine to the home due to incontinence; which can discourage them from joining a club or community event as a result of, the treatment and embarrassment of the condition.
“This may involve a frequent urge to urinate, which can catch them off-guard and perhaps look odd in public”. Despite continuous improvement in treatment options; outcomes usually involve long-term surveillance with repeated complications including possible muscle invasion by the cancer resulting; in the removal of the bladder and possible death.
“Throughout the study, we found that a supportive partner was vital in dealing with the daily impacts of bladder cancer; and health professionals can capitalize on this in a number of ways,” Dr. Heyes says.”Health professionals can help by giving partners and carers clear and concise information, counselling and support for patient management; with attention to individual and day-to-day needs.”
Cancer nurses, doctors and other health professionals can therefore aid by managing the shock and fear of diagnosis, pre and post surgery issues, treatment and recovery, sexuality and body image, and support and comfort.