Learning you have prostate cancer can be very difficult. It adds stress, anxiety and worry about the future. It's easy to get depressed.
"A cancer diagnosis can certainly be a life-changing event. In addition to the distress a diagnosis causes, patients have to make important treatment decisions that can impact their future quality of life," said Michael Diefenbach, PhD, professor and director of behavioral research for Northwell's Departments of Medicine and Urology, and member of the recently founded Center for Health Innovations and Outcomes Research. "There are a lot of questions patients have about sexual and urinary functioning."
Finding credible answers can be challenging in the digital era. So, Dr. Diefenbach and his team are currently testing a new solution - Healium, a software program funded by the American Cancer Society that can help lead patients to a treatment option most in line with their personal preferences.
Dr. Diefenbach said Phase I of Healium's trial began last summer with 20 patients enrolled. His team meets with patients an hour before their doctor's visit to discuss treatment options and go through the Healium program. The goal is to help patients identify which aspects are most important to them with regard to treatment and their quality of life after treatment. Being able to identify these preferences before talking with their physician will help make appropriate treatment decisions.
"[Healium] not only informs patients about different treatment options, but more importantly helps them realize what is important to them. How the treatment they are choosing will impact their future quality of life," Dr. Diefenbach said. "There are differences in how tolerant men are of their side effects.
"We have heard many times from patients that 'I don't care what it takes. I just want it out.' The idea that they have cancer and that cancer might grow even very slowly, in their body is just not tolerable. They're willing to take on any potential side effects. Others don't want to be cut."