Does yoga help quality of life of prostate cancer survivors?

A paper to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) suggests that learning and practicing yoga may have significant impact on the long-term health of selected cancer survivors, with particular benefits for sleep patterns and recovery from fatigue.

The paper by Musian et al. describes a multi-site, phase II/III, randomized, controlled, clinical trial intended to investigate the efficacy of yoga for improving sleep quality, fatigue, and quality of life (QOL) among cancer survivors. The trial enrolled 410 non-metastatic, cancer survivors who were suffering from moderate or greater sleep disruption between 2 and 24 months after completing adjuvant therapy for their cancer. The participants could not have had any yoga experience for at least 3 months prior to trial participation.

Patients were then randomized into two groups:

  • Group A received standard care and monitoring.
  • Group B received standard care plus the 4-week yoga intervention (two classes a week, with each class lasting 75 minutes).

Results of the study are reported as follows:

  • 394/410 participants (96 percent) were female.
  • The average (mean) age of the participants was 54 years.
  • 75 percent of the participants were breast cancer survivors.
  • The yoga participants in Group B demonstrated greater improvements in sleep qualit, fatigue, and QOL from pre- to post-intervention compared to the control patients in Group A.
  • Patients in the yoga group also reduced their use of sleep medications use, whereas the patients in the control group increased their medication use.

There is additional information in an associated HealthDay story on this study, and it seems clear  that non-metastatic, female, cancer survivors who are having sleep problems post-therapy do indeed benefit from yoga as a means to address this and related QOL problems. Whether the same results would be seen in comparable, male, prostate cancer patients is more difficult to assess.

Do men have the patience to learn to do yoga well? Certainly they do, but yoga is not exactly one of the most prevalent forms of health practice among male Americans. Is this just a cultural issue? In certain cultures yoga is seen as an eminently respectable and helpful form of self-care for men, perhaps even more so than for women.

Should prostate cancer patients in general be encouraged to consider yoga as part of their long-term care? Perhaps we need more data before we can come to that conclusion. On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that yoga can be good for general health, and there are no known adverse effects. The simple answer would seem to be, “If you are into it, do it!”

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