Yoga exercises Impact Prostate Cancer Treatment
For men who are undergoing radiation as part of prostate cancer treatment, incorporating yoga exercises into their program should be a consideration. New research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine shows that the combination of physical poses, meditation, and breathing techniques provides some benefits for men who are coping with this difficult time in their lives.
Numerous studies have already revealed that individuals with health challenges ranging from breast cancer to depression, asthma, arthritis, back pain, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, and more can experience improvement in symptoms and enhanced quality of life when they adopt the practice of yoga. Now, according to Dr. Neha Vapiwala, of the Department of Radiation Oncology, and her study team, men with prostate cancer who are undergoing radiation therapy can be helped as well.
Radiation therapy for men with prostate cancer is associated with a number of side effects that can have a life-altering impact on their lives. In addition to fatigue, which can affect up to 90 percent of treated patients, radiation also often results in erectile dysfunction (21-85% of men), urinary incontinence (24%), and bowel problems, as well as emotional turmoil.
To evaluate the impact of yoga on men with prostate cancer who were treated with external radiation beam therapy, Dr. Vapiwala and her team worked with 45 men who participated in two sessions of Eischens yoga per week for 75 minutes each. All of the men were participating in six to nine weeks of outpatient radiation treatment. Eischens yoga is a form that incorporates kinesiology and movement theory.
Although 18 men had to withdraw from the yoga classes because of unavoidable scheduling problems, the researchers were able to get information from the remaining participants. Overall:
- Severity of fatigue improved after week 4 of yoga sessions
- Quality of life was maintained
- Prevalence of erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence remained steady
Vapiwala explained that the benefits of yoga in this study come from physiologic data showing that the practice can help reduce fatigue and strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which may help improve urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. She also said that “Data have consistently shown declines in these [fatigue, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence] important measures among prostate cancer patients undergoing cancer therapy…so the stable scores seen with our yoga program are really good news.”
The team plans to conduct more research, including a randomized controlled trial of men with prostate cancer comparing yoga vs no yoga.
Earlier yoga and prostate cancer study
In earlier research, investigators explored whether yoga would be a beneficial physical activity for prostate cancer survivors and their support persons. Fifteen prostate cancer survivors and ten support individuals participated in the 14-week study.
The first seven weeks included yoga sessions followed by seven weeks of self-selected physical activities. At the end of the study, all the participants reported significant acute improvements in fatigue, mood, and stress before and after taking yoga. The authors noted that more investigation is needed to determine whether there are more chronic (long-term) benefits from yoga in this population.
Experts do not fully understand the potential benefits of yoga for prostate cancer patients and survivors. Given what the research has shown us thus far about the health advantages of yoga as well as meditation and breathing techniques, it seems likely this practice will prove helpful for men with prostate cancer at various levels.
Also Read: Stress and anxiety affect prostate cancer treatment
Clouds and meditation
Ben-Josef AM et al. Yoga intervention for patients with prostate cancer undergoing external beam radiation therapy: a pilot feasibility study. Integrative Cancer Therapy 2015 Nov 20
Ross Zahavich AN et al. Examining a therapeutic yoga program for prostate cancer survivors. Integrative Cancer Therapy 2013 Mar; 12(2): 113-25
University of Pennsylvania