April 6 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine have found that yoga may help alleviate negative side effects of prostate cancer treatment.
The phase II trial was designed to measure potential therapeutic effects of yoga on fatigue, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence and overall quality of life in patients undergoing external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
Between October 2014 and January 2016, 50 prostate cancer patients who underwent between six and nine weeks of radiation were split into two groups, one practicing yoga and the other not.
Patients in the yoga group participated in yoga classes twice a week for the study period.
"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," Dr. Neha Vapiwala, associate professor of Radiation Oncology at Perelman, said in a press release. "But as treatment went on, we observed a difference in the two groups."
"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," he said, adding that "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."
The study found patients in the non-yoga group not only did not report decreased fatigue, but instead reported increasing fatigue as treatment progressed.
Researchers also examined the effects yoga had on sexual health, in particular erectile dysfunction, which effects up to 85 percent of radiation therapy patients during treatment. The yoga group remained at baseline as far as erectile dysfunction but the non-yoga group declined below baseline during treatment.
"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," Vapiwala said. "That may also explain the yoga patients' improved urinary function scores, another finding of this trial."
Overall well-being also increased in both groups, but more quickly in the yoga group than the non-yoga group.
The study was published in Radiation Oncology.