A small study suggests that yoga may help men who are undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer to alleviate some side effects of their treatment and maintain their quality of life.
Yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical poses and breathing techniques, along with meditation or relaxation. Studies have examined the benefits of yoga for female cancer patients, but not for male cancer patients.
Radiation therapy can be an effective treatment for men with prostate cancer, but it can have side effects that impair the quality of life. Between 60% and 90% of men undergoing radiation experience fatigue, up to 85% experience erectile dysfunction, and 24% experience urinary incontinence.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine presented their findings about yoga at a conference of the Society of Integrative Oncology. The team studied 45 men with prostate cancer who were undergoing 6 to 9 weeks of outpatient radiation therapy and who agreed to take part in 75 minutes of Eischens yoga twice weekly during their treatment. Eischens yoga is a type of yoga that incorporates movement theory and kinesiology.
The researchers note that 18 of the participants withdrew from the yoga sessions early due to time conflicts between yoga classes and radiation therapy. The remaining men completed a series of questionnaires that showed that, throughout the course of radiation therapy and yoga sessions, their quality of life was maintained. The severity of their fatigue was reduced, while prevalence of erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence remained steady.
The researchers noted that previous studies in women have found that yoga can reduce fatigue for cancer patients, and have also suggested that yoga may strengthen pelvic floor muscles and increase blood flow. This increased blood flow may explain why the practice appeared to alleviate erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a little over 9% of American adults practiced yoga in 2012, up from 6.1% in 2007.