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Prostate cancer support group forms online

Yankees manager Joe Torre logs on

(CNN) -- A cancer diagnosis is enough to throw anyone a curve -- even those who should be used to them.

New York Yankees manager Joe Torre -- a National League MVP as a third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971 -- remembers feeling "numb" when a doctor told him that he had prostate cancer two years ago.

"I don't know what I would have done without Ali," he said of his wife, Alice. "She sought out information, asked questions and helped to guide us through the complicated process of reaching a treatment decision."

The Torres are supporting the establishment of, an Internet-based support group for those facing prostate cancer and their families. The site officially launched on Valentine's Day.

"When a man is diagnosed, he needs someone thinking clearly," Torre said. "I found friends who had had it only after I went public a couple of years ago."

Since 1999, the Yankees manager has become a vocal and visible advocate for public awareness of the disease, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

"When I went through physicals a few years ago, the team doctor said if you live long enough, every male is going to get this," Torre said. "Since then, there's been (New York) Mayor (Rudy) Guilani and the police commissioner here in New York. People are understanding that they're not the only ones being afflicted."

African-American men are especially at risk. According to the National Cancer Institute, blacks are 35 percent more likely than whites to develop prostate cancer, and are two to three times more likely to die from it.

A prostate cancer diagnosis also affects family members in a unique way, partly because of the sometimes-difficult adjustments to side effects from treatment. It is one of the few cancers where treatment involves close monitoring because more aggressive measures, such as surgery and radiation, can lead to impotence and incontinence. In the face of such possibilities, treatment options become difficult decisions, doctors say.

A recent National Prostate Cancer Coalition survey of the wives of prostate cancer patients found that many experienced their own side effects, both emotional and physical.

Among the results:

  • Forty-two percent report physical side effects such as stress (85 percent), restless sleep (44 percent) and weight changes (30 percent).
  • Fifty-one percent point to emotional turmoil, including feelings of helplessness (46 percent), loss of intimacy (45 percent), anxiety (43 percent) and depression (30 percent).
  • Fifty-five percent say prostate cancer has changed their lifestyle. Of those, 72 percent cited a loss of sex.

"Spouses play a critical role in managing their husbands' illness," said coalition spokesman Skip Lockwood. "Having the opportunity to talk with someone else who has the same thoughts -- the same ups and downs -- can put things in proper perspective."

The survey found that spouses rely on friends and family for support. Many, however, "are still reluctant" to discuss it, according to Torre.

That's where the " Connection" can help, he said. "The unique thing about e-mail is that you can be anonymous. You can be open with a faceless person."

The new dot-com breed of support group aims to match users who have similar diagnoses and personal characteristics to enable them to give each other maximum support, Torre said. Recently diagnosed individuals will be paired with those who have some experience traveling the maze of treatment options and the physical and emotional consequences of the disease.

The National Prostate Cancer Coalition survey included responses from 302 women who were interviewed by telephone between December 18, 2000 and January 11. Other survey sponsors were Amgen Inc. and Praecis Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Chat: Drs. Robert Smith and Harmon Eyre on prostate screening
September 22, 2000
Prostate screening test valuable for younger men, too
September 20, 2000
New York mayor to start cancer treatments
September 15, 2000

Two Against One Online Support Group
National Prostate Cancer Coalition
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Amgen Inc.
Praecis Pharmaceuticals Inc.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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