The Unavoidable Stress of Prostate Cancer Treatment


Stress and anxiety are unavoidable for cancer patients. From diagnosis to treatment to survivorship, patients may experience varying levels of stress. In fact, studies show that up to 49% of patients attending radiation therapy could experience anxiety. 

Many experience what is called anticipatory anxiety - anticipating a negative event or outcome, during the early stages of treatment.

Under normal circumstances, patients are especially vulnerable during the first few visits of both treatment planning and treatment. And this is even more true now that medical centers have restricted patient visitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cancer patients have compromised immune systems and need to avoid risk of exposure to the virus. However, this self-quarantine leaves them feeling isolated and alone. 

Courtney Misher is a radiation therapist who details such concerns in her blog post "On the Front Lines with Cancer and COVID-19." 

She writes, "Some of my patients are showing signs of depression due to the lack of visitation by their friends and family. As if our patients aren’t already going through enough emotionally by trying to cope with their cancer diagnosis and treatment, now they are trying to cope without the immediate support of their loved ones." 

In the absence of loved ones during treatment, more pressure is placed on medical staff to provide that much needed sense of assurance and care.

While medical staffers try to offer support, different patients have different needs and will most certainly experience varying levels of anxiety.

For example, studies show that at any given time 20-60% of patients with prostate cancer may suffer from anxiety in general. This anxiousness may be due to getting treatment in a very private area of the body and/or the practices necessary in order to ensure accurate treatment planning, such as following bladder filling practices and avoiding eating before treatment.

Bladder filling is a necessary practice for treating prostate cancer in radiation therapy. A full bladder helps to better target the prostate away and minimize the dose to nearby healthy tissues. However, the practice of bladder filling may increase stress for this particularly vulnerable patient population. Oftentimes, prostate cancer patients may experience the urge to empty their bladder and fear urinating while they're on the table.

How to help alleviate stress in patients with a vulnerable bladder?

Medical staff and even the oncologist may recommend patients use pelvic floor exercises to help with urinary struggles. But patients are still left with stress on the bed. One way to help reduce anxiousness in Radiation Therapy, especially for those with prostate cancer, is to offer clinical aromatherapy at appointments through their treatment.   
A radiation oncology nurse at the Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI implemented using Beekley Medical’s Elequil aromatabs® with prostate patients to help alleviate the stress they may feel during treatment.

“The Orange-Peppermint aromatabs have been the favorite choice amongst our Veterans. They find this scent very calming. Veterans who receive radiation for their prostate cancer must hold their urine for their entire treatment, so they find the Elequil aromatabs beneficial to help with this discomfort. Patients have responded favorably to this level of care in a time of great vulnerability and anxiety.

“One of our Veterans had received hormone therapy for his prostate cancer and was ‘on edge.’ He requested the Lavender aromatab and felt this not only helped him with his mood, but also helped him during his treatment when he had to hold his urine.”

Offering aromatherapy in consultation helps to empower patients by giving them a say in at least one part of their prostate treatment and may help avoid cancellations or postponing of appointments due to anxiety. 

To learn more about the benefits of Elequil aromatabs for radiation oncology, call 1-800-233-5539 or email

Jonathan McCullough

Jonathan McCullough

Product Manager

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