Yoga Can Reduce Side Effects Of Prostate Cancer In Men


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Written by: Justin Cowart

Men who are undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer can really benefit from doing yoga, stated multiple researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine residing at the University of Pennsylvania, their words recorded at the Society of Integrative Oncology’s 12th International Conference.

This study was a first-of-its-kind type of study and was led by an associate professor Neha Vapiwala, MD, who worked in the department of Radiation Oncology at PSOM an Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. They were able to find out that the general quality of life and measurements of the different side effects that are often experienced by prostate cancer patients, including urinary incontinence, fatigue and sexual health, were stable throughout the course of outpatient radiation therapy for the men participating in an intensive yoga program.

Vapiwala stated that “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.”

If you are not aware of it, cancer-related fatigue actually differs quite a bit from our everyday life fatigue, which is usually temporary and can normally be relieved simply by sleeping or resting. Fatigue that comes from both cancer treatments and cancer itself has been found to normally lower the patient’s quality of life even more so than pain.

The studies were able to show that anywhere from 60 to 90% of all patients who received the radiation therapy reported this symptom.

One possible explanation for the benefits of yoga that had been seen in the study stems from the physiologic data that demonstrated its ability to help reduce cancer as well as to treat related fatigue and to even increase blood flow and strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

Vapiwala goes on to say that, “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.”

There have been other studies conducted that were able to demonstrate beneficial health and quality of life effects from yoga interventions in the cancer patients.  Normally, yoga has been predominantly evaluated for people with breast cancer and the research on yoga’s role in helping to alleviate prostate cancer patients’ different side effects. Unfortunately, research regarding prostate cancer and yoga has been lacking due to the perception that men would not be willing to participate in this type of holistic exercise.

Vapiwala stated that, “Despite these figures, we found that a structured yoga intervention in the form of twice-weekly classes is feasible for patients during a six- to nine-week course of outpatient radiotherapy for prostate cancer.  

“Our participation-rate finding alone is important because it is a caution against making assumptions about patients without proper evidence.”

Although 40% of the participants in the study had voluntarily withdrawn from the study early due to unanticipated and unavoidable conflicts between the radiation treatment times and the schedule of the yoga class. The remaining participants in the study’s feasibility endpoints were met.

Certified Eischens yoga instructor and researcher in the Abramson Cancer Center, Tali Mazar Ben-Josef, DMD stated that,

“Eischens yoga incorporates ideas from movement theory and kinesiology and is accessible to all body types and experience levels.”

Most of the yoga participants actually were able to report a sense of well-being at the end of each class and when they finished the yoga program and with the conclusion of their studies involvement, many of the patients requested and even received at-home practice routines to fit their needs.

The different effects of yoga were able to be measured by the participant’s responses to a series of questions to assess the overall quality-of-life, cancer-related fatigue, erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. The researchers chose these types of variables due to so many prostate cancer patients being affected by them.

The severity of the different fatigue scores helped to demonstrate a significant variable over the span of treatment, which increased by week four of the study as expected, but then was able to show improvement over the rest of the course of treatment.

The team is now currently randomizing the prostate cancer patients to no participation vs. participation in this type of structured yoga program in an order to help further the characterization of potential benefits of yoga in this population.

Vapiwala had this to say about the effects of the study,

“We offer several ways to enhance quality of life, minimize or reduce side effects of cancer and cancer treatment and promote healing and recovery. This study represents one of many research projects we are conducting in an effort to pinpoint the best, most effective practices to help patients with these needs.”

Did you know that around 240,000 different men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society who funded this new study?

The full results of this research are expected to be published early next year. I strongly believe that if this study is able to show that yoga can have a strong and positive effect on people who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s a great way to help them cope with this horrible disease.

What are your thoughts and ideas about this study?  We would love to hear from you in the comments below.


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Justin Cowart

Justin Cowart

Justin Cowart is a writer and researcher that loves to learn more about health, life, consciousness and making the world a better place. He loves music, traveling, meditation, video games and spending time with family and friends. He believes in baby steps and lifestyle changes in order to live a full life. In 2014, he lost around 40lbs from baby steps and emotional detoxing.
Justin Cowart


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