Yoga May Improve Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Treatment


Yoga can relieve symptoms and side effects of prostate cancer radiation treatment, according to a new clinical trial.

Practicing yoga two times a week led to better energy levels, sexual function and urinary function compared to the men who did not do yoga.

Credit: stylephotographs/123RF Stock Photo

The findings, reported by a team at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, were published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics.

At the beginning of the study, the patients reported levels of fatigue by filling out a questionnaire that detailed how it affected their daily life. The questionnaire was given again two weeks before starting radiation treatment, during radiotherapy treatment, and again after their final yoga class. The control group underwent treatment without the addition of yoga.

“At their baseline, before patients started treatment, patients in both groups were on the lower end of the scale, meaning they reported lower amounts of fatigue,” said Neha Vapiwala, MD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology. “But as treatment went on, we observed a difference in the two groups.”

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Vapiwala was trial’s principal investigator, and in the study she reports that while fatigue increased in patients who did not do yoga, the levels remained steady for those who did. The twice weekly yoga sessions were 75 minutes in length and included traditional yoga breathing practices and easy-to-follow flows. The sessions ended with Savasana, a restorative yoga pose that calms and centers the body and mind.

Savasana is typically practiced as an ending yoga pose. Credit: racorn/123RF Stock Photo

“Levels of patient-reported fatigue are expected to increase by around the fourth or fifth week of a typical treatment course, but that did not happen in the yoga group,” said Vapiwala. “Both the severity of the fatigue as well as the patients’ ability to go about their normal lives appeared to be positively impacted in the yoga group.”

In addition, the patients were examined in terms of their sexual health and function. Up to 85 percent of prostate cancer patients experience some level of erectile dysfunction. This is often caused by androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), which reduces the amount of male hormones that may affect the prostate. Similar to the reports of fatigue, the study of erectile dysfunction showed that while those who did not do yoga suffered increasingly in sexual function, those who did practice yoga showed similar levels after several weeks as to when they began the treatment.

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“Yoga is known to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which is one of several postulated theories that may explain why this group did not demonstrate declining scores, as seen in the control group,” observed Vapiwala. “That may also explain the yoga patients’ improved urinary function scores, another finding of this trial.”

In addition, the practice of yoga also results in more positive emotional and physical well-being reporting. The control group noted much less of an increase in both areas.