Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found that men undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer can stabilize and even decrease the side effects of the treatment with yoga.
For the study, which was presented last month at the Society of Integrative Oncology's International Conference and which is expected to be published early next year, 68 eligible prostate cancer patients were invited to twice-weekly 75 minute yoga Eischens classes, with 66 per cent willing to participate, and 40 per cent completing the course. The effects of the yoga were measured by researchers in a series of questions on the patient's fatigue, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and general quality of life, all chosen for being common side effects among prostate cancer sufferers.
Eischens yoga was chosen for its suitability for all body types and all levels of fitness and experience. Men who had participated in and completed the intensive yoga course while undergoing radiation treatment showed stabilized results when tested on erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence, and an improvement in cancer-related fatigue, a side effect reported by 60-90 per cent of those receiving radiation treatment.
A possible explanation for these benefits is that yoga strengthens the pelvic floor muscles and increases blood flow, which may in turn improve urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, as well as reducing feelings of fatigue, which can lower patient's quality of life more than pain. It can also leave participants with an increased general sense of well-being as well as a result of taking part in a social, group activity that promotes mediation, fitness and health.
Previous studies have shown the benefits that yoga can have on cancer patients, but have often concentrated on female breast cancer patients, due mainly to the perception that men would be unwilling to participate in a holistic fitness regime such as yoga. National statistics show that of those that practice yoga, 72 per cent are female, and only 18 per cent of those that practice are over the age of 55. According to the American Cancer Society, which funded the new study, nearly 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the United States, and the median age for diagnosis is 65.