Prostate cancer is considered the second most common cancer in the world. In the U.S., the American Cancer Society estimates there will be a total of 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer and about 25,540 cancer related deaths for 2015.
Like most cancers, men with prostate cancer can have a difficult time adjusting to the symptoms associated with the disease. First, the person will experience changes in bladder habits. For instance, he will feel the intense need to urinate frequently, especially during the night. There may also be blood in the semen or urine, and ejaculation may also be painful. Finally, as symptoms of prostate cancer develop, the person may also experience fatigue, weight loss, or declined sexual health.
The American Cancer Society has funded a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. It is the first to examine the effects of yoga therapy in men with prostate cancer who are undergoing radiation therapy. The researchers found that prostate cancer symptoms and quality of life were stable throughout radiation therapy when patients participated in an intensive yoga program. The researchers presented the study at the Society of Integrative Oncology’s 12th International Conference in Boston, Massachusetts from November 14 to 16. The study will be published early in 2016.
“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 out yoga program are really good news,” explained study author Neha Vapiwala, who is an associate professor in the department of Radiation Oncology at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.
For the study, 45 prostate cancer patients participated in two 75-minute yoga classes between May 2013 and June 2014. Eischens yoga instructors taught the classes at the Abramson Cancer Center. There were 18 participants who withdrew from the study due to unexpected and unavoidable conflicts between the yoga class schedule and radiation treatment times. The remaining 27 participants successfully finished the study, with some patients completing the program with at-home practices.
The yoga participants had reported a greater sense of well-being at the end of every yoga class, and at the conclusion of the study. The effectiveness of yoga was measured through a series of responses to questions to assess cancer-related fatigue, overall quality-of-life, and prevalence of erectile and sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence. The severity of fatigue scores showed significant variability during the treatment time with steady improvement after week four of the study.
The possible benefits from yoga may be due to physiologic data that demonstrates its ability to reduce cancer-related and treatment-related fatigue. Yoga can also increase blood flow and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. As a result, yoga may improve symptoms of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
The research team is continuing to study the benefits of yoga by recruiting prostate cancer patients to participate in randomized studies. Previous studies have found that yoga is a good physical activity option for prostate cancer survivors. Yoga has also been found to improve quality of life in cancer patients.
The study is a representation of the Abramson Cancer Center’s Integrative medicine and wellness services that are available to cancer survivors and patients. Besides yoga, patients can also participate in activities such as massage, acupuncture, reiki therapy, meditation, and other stress-reduction techniques.
“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,” added Vapiwala.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Avital, B-J., et al., “Abstract 15 – Oral Session: Yoga Intervention for patients with prostate cancer undergoing external beam radiation therapy – a pilot feasibility study,” Society for Integrative Oncology 12th International Conference, November 16, 2015; https://integrativeonc.org/docman-library/events/conference-materials/181-sio2015-oral-abstracts/file.
“Yoga Helps Maintain Quality of Life, May Lessen Side Effects in Men Undergoing Prostate Cancer Treatment,” Penn Medicine web site, November 16, 2015; http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2015/11/yoga/.
“Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer,” Canadian Cancer Society web site; http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/prostate/signs-and-symptoms/?region=bc, last accessed November 17, 2015.
Ross Zahavich, A.N., et al., “Examining a therapeutic yoga program for prostate cancer survivors,” Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2013; 12(2): 113-125, doi: 10.1177/1534735412446862.