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September 30, 2020 | 3 minute read

How Yoga Can Improve Treatment-Related Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Research studies have shown how emotional and physical fatigue resulting from cancer treatment can be reduced through the practice of yoga. Over the past few years, only some research has focused specifically on men who are being treated for prostate cancer. Due to a growing number of prostate cancer survivors, there is a greater need for strategies to mitigate the adverse reactions to treatment that may negatively affect quality of life (QOL).

Approximately 70% of prostate cancer survivors currently have overweight or obesity. In addition to treatments, lifestyle choices may predispose some survivors to cancer-related fatigue (CRF) affecting their QOL. A systematic review targeting the effect of nutrition and exercise on CRF and QOL specific to men with prostate cancer concluded that “consuming a diet aligned with the healthy eating guidelines and exercising at a moderate-vigorous (aerobic exercise) and/or moderate-to-hard (resistance training) intensity may reduce CRF. Structured and supervised exercise positively influences both CRF and QOL in men with prostate cancer.” The study also speaks to the benefits of receiving individualized nutrition therapy to focus on increased protein intake for maintaining lean muscle mass and foods that support an anti-inflammatory diet.

Research on Yoga and Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Treatment

In 2015, the first randomized trial to look at the effect of twice-weekly yoga on the side effects caused by prostate cancer treatment was led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study concluded that men who attended a structured yoga class twice weekly during prostate cancer radiation treatment noticed improved sexual and urinary function, as well as decreased fatigue compared to those who did not attend. This study was limited to patients who had previously not practiced yoga, had no prior radiation therapy and did not have metastatic disease. The improved urinary function scores and lack of decline in sexual function for those who participated in yoga may be due to the fact that “yoga is known to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

While more research is needed on the effects that yoga may have on the side effects caused by prostate cancer treatments, the evidence thus far has yielded positive results for prostate cancer survivors. Following AICR’s 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations is a great place for prostate cancer survivors to start when working towards a healthier lifestyle. Additional resources for caregivers, those under treatment and survivors include:

  • AICR’S CUP Report on prostate cancer. The report found that maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing one can do to lower risk for developing prostate cancer.
  • AICR’s iTHRIVE program is an educational tool that offers an integrative approach to health. This online program lets survivors create personalized, physician-approved wellness plans, and turns scientific information into fun, actionable activities.
  • New to yoga and interested in learning more? Reach out to your local cancer center or hospital for resources on how to get started with yoga or check out The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga. This was written by physicians who have experienced the transformative effects of yoga personally and recommend it to their patients.

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