Yoga for Prostate Cancer Patients

Did You Know…that yoga may help alleviate the side effects of radiation therapy in prostate cancer patients?

The American Cancer Society estimates that 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.  Treatment plans vary by case, but typically include chemo or radiation therapy.  These cancer therapies come with side effects that significantly reduce quality of life and well-being.  Studies indicate that 21-85% of prostate cancer patients encounter erectile dysfunction… 24% of patients suffer through urinary incontinence… and 60-90% of prostate cancer patients experience severe fatigue from radiation therapy.  Cancer-related fatigue isn’t “normal” fatigue that can be alleviated with a nap or a good night’s sleep.  It’s debilitating, and studies have shown that this type of fatigue hijacks quality of life to an even greater degree than pain does!

Researchers are forever on the lookout for alternative therapies to help mitigate the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.  On a grant from the American Cancer Society, researchers from University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine investigated the effects of yoga on the well-being of prostate cancer patients.  They discovered that yoga may indeed help diminish the side effects of radiation.

Keep Stable with Yoga 

This study is one of the first to test yoga’s influence on the side effects of radiation in men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.  Previous research indicates that yoga helps improve the health and quality of life of cancer patients, but the majority of this research has focused on breast cancer patients.  Why the gender split? National statistics indicate that women are more likely to participate in yoga than men are.  In fact, 72% of yoga practitioners are women.  Age factors in as well.  Only 18% of yogis and yoginis are over age 55, and the median age for a prostate cancer diagnosis is 66.

From May 2013 through June 2014, 48 prostate cancer patients participated in a 75-minute yoga class 2 times a week for 6-9 weeks while undergoing outpatient radiation therapy.  Thirty patients completed the study.  Researchers used a self-assessment questionnaire to determine yoga’s effect on overall quality of life, cancer-related fatigue, and prevalence of sexual and erectile dysfunction.  Results showed that side effects remained stable throughout treatment among the men who participated in the yoga therapy program.

While “stable” may not have the most dramatically positive ring to it, researchers point out that typically side effects get much worse, so stable is definitely indicative of improvement.  Lead researcher Neha Vapiwala, MD, an associate professor in the department of Radiation Oncology at PSOM and Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, explains: “Data have consistently shown declines in these important measures among prostate cancer patients undergoing cancer therapy without any structured fitness interventions, so the stable scores seen with our yoga program are really good news.” 

Researchers believe that the therapeutic movements of yoga help reduce cancer symptoms such as treatment-related fatigue, and to strengthen pelvic floor muscles and boost blood flow, which helps improve sexual function and urinary incontinence.

“There may also be a psychosocial benefit that derives from participation in a group fitness activity that incorporates meditation and promotes overall healthiness.  And all of this ultimately improves general quality of life,” Vapiwala added.

In addition to yoga, healing herbs and spices offer an added level of protection against cancers, including prostate cancer. To learn about the Top Ten Natural Cancer Cures no one is talking about but everyone can benefit from, click here.

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