PALS: Prostate Cancer Support Group

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among New Zealand men, with about 3,400 men diagnosed each year. About 7% of these men are Māori. It is more common in men aged over 50 years.

PALS (Prostate Cancer Awareness is a Life Saver) is a group for men who have prostate cancer. It provides opportunities for support, information, perspective and sharing experiences. 

The group meets at the Cancer Society rooms in Newtown, Wellington, at 7pm on the fourth Tuesday of the month from February to November inclusive. And partners are always welcome. 

PALS is coordinated by Graeme Coutts, who had a prostatectomy in 2004. Graeme welcomes and supports new members, ensuring they have all the information they need. 

He encourages all newly diagnosed men to see the cancer information nurses to get answers to their questions and access to Cancer Society support services such as counselling. 

The group regularly has guest speakers covering a variety of topics including genetic and cancers, travel insurance, physiotherapy for the male pelvic floor and the Wellington Hospital urology clinical nurse specialist.

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Tom has been attending the PALS group for twelve years and is one of the regulars that attend each month. He has been kind enough to talk about what he sees as some of the crucial roles of the group. 

Tom tells us that men “find value in the group from going along and talking about their situation and realising that they are not alone in going through prostate cancer”. 

At the group, the men get to talk about the things they think of as they leave the doctor’s office but didn’t get to ask. Some of these are questions that doctors may not be able to answer or don’t have the time to help patients solve, such as:

How do you get on with the rest of your life?

Who do you tell?

What do you say at work?

What about money?

How do you make decisions?

Which treatment (for those with a choice)? 

Private or public hospital treatment?

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Attendees at the group have a variety of different prostate cancer situations and between them have had most of the various treatments available. With their knowledge and personal experience of post-treatment side-effects, newly diagnosed men can be supported and informed while making the decisions that are right for them. 

Tom tells of another valuable role of the support group: 

"Often men have only talked over their health issues with their partners who may find it hard to know how to help, as their knowledge on prostate cancer may be fairly limited. Coming to the group opens up a wider range of conversations, support and information. “You give your wife a break...it’s the one time you talk about your health risks and problems with others, and this gives her a break”.

“Prostate cancer can affect men of ANY ethnicity or background”,Tom emphasises that the group is suitable for anyone with prostate cancer.

As always, spouses and partners are very welcome to attend. 

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

Often early prostate cancer has no symptoms but can:

  • include difficulty passing urine
  • more frequent urination, especially at night
  • pain when passing urine 
  • blood in the urine or semen.

If you have any of these symptoms, get them checked by a GP.

There is no national screening programme for prostate cancer in New Zealand but should be discussed individually with a GP. 

Generally, testing is recommended for men aged 50-70 years who do not have a family history and from 40 years for those whose brother or father have had a diagnosis of prostate cancer.  

More information to help decide about getting a test for prostate cancer can be found at www.kupe.net.nz

To discuss anything in this article, please call us on 0800 CANCER (226 237) to chat with our nurses or you can email info@cancersoc.org.nz 

Read our Prostate Cancer booklet online here.

This article appeared in our client magazine CanTalk in Summer 2021, read the full issue here.