Christian Holyoak is a psychologist at ESCA CancerSupport. This association offers practical and psychological support and well-being activities for free in English to cancer patients and their families. Hirslanden Clinique des Grangettes Prostate Centre team works in collaboration with the association and offers these services to patients.

1 - Tell us a bit about your prostate cancer support group. What are some of the most frequent issues being discussed?

Our monthly prostate cancer support group commenced in May 2021 owing to a need for men to come together and speak about their experiences.  The group provides fellowship, support and information.  The main issues discussed have centered around how to navigate the medical system, treatment options and their effects on the body, the mind and intimate relationships, the recovery process, and issues around work.  The men have informed us that prostate cancer hits at the heart of their masculine identity.  They have found the group to be a secure space to talk about sexual performance and readjustments to their intimate relationships as well as concerns about disclosing their diagnosis at work fearing it will affect their employability and advancement opportunities.

2 - What specific services do you offer to patients?

In addition to listening carefully, we invite health professionals to participate in our discussions. We believe it is essential that patients receive reliable and trustworthy information rather than relying on hearsay and internet research. Recently, a nurse clinician spoke about physical care and recovery, which was very useful for the participants.

We have other guests lined up to visit the group including urologists and oncologists, a sex therapist, a physical therapist and a coach to answer questions related to work.  We also will be inviting the spouse of a man who had gone through prostate cancer treatment to provide a partner’s perspective.

3 - What challenges do non-French speaking patients face when they are diagnosed with cancer?

It is well known that those facing cancer will do better if they have close and supportive relationships and social bonds.  The majority of our clients are non-francophone and therefore don’t have their social roots here in Switzerland.  They are also unfamiliar with the medical system with it being different to the medical system and culture in their home countries.  For example, some men weren’t sure if it is OK in Switzerland to ask for a second medical opinion.  They feel lost and confused in the medical system and wished for someone to guide them through the cancer treatment and recovery process.  When diagnosed and offered treatment options, they need time to come to a decision about what treatment to pursue; they need to understand the pros and cons of treatment options, especially the physical, psychological and relational implications and side-effects of treatment.  Many had expressed their wish they had been referred to or had found a support group once diagnosed.

ESCA CancerSupport can assist by providing a safe and secure English-speaking environment to help the men through their cancer treatment and recovery.  We provide counselling and support services including the monthly prostate cancer support group.  We have commenced a new service related to work and cancer where a coach is available to guide men through work-related concerns.  ESCA CancerSupport also has other spaces and events that are social in nature that allow for the men and their families to feel a sense of belonging and community.  We also link in with other services and can provide sound referral advice as part of building a matrix of support around the men.  All our services are free of charge.

Finally, we work closely with the referral nurses and specialists at the Prostate Centre to provide personalised assistance to each non-French speaking patient to better answer their questions and help them in every step of the recovery process.