Holistic treatment of prostate cancer fights hormone therapy side effects

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Holistic treatment of prostate cancer fights hormone therapy side effects

One of the most effective treatment methods for prostate cancer is hormone therapy also known as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).  ADT is a form of chemical castration prescribed to eliminate testosterone in men with advanced prostate cancer since the disease is fueled by testosterone.  It is widely used and is so effective at halting the progress of the cancer that men are often treated with ADT for many years.

Side effects of ADT

The problem with ADT however, is that it comes at a cost.  When male hormones such as testosterone are suppressed to prevent prostate cancer growth, men will suffer side effects of losing strength and muscle mass whiling gaining fat.  These bodily changes will put a man more at risk for developing other serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Study looking at reduction of side effects using holistic means

To prevent this situation from occurring in men using ADT, a study appearing in the journal of Annals of Behavioral Medicine, found that diet and moderate exercise are important tools in reducing these side effects in men using ADT.  The study conducted the research using a group setting which seemed to make a difference for the patients.  Even though this study is not the first study to show that exercise is vital for prostate cancer patients and survivors, it is the first to focus on diet and its positive effect on reducing side effects.

The researchers stated that by using a group approach, it helped to create a social support for the men who are going through the same thing with similar side effects.  The study included 32 prostate cancer patients treated at Ohio State’s Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital.  Half of the men participated in a 12-week personalized program that included group exercise and nutrition counseling.  The other half received some basic education related to the cancer diagnosis and the opportunity for exercise education at the end of the study.  Before the study began, all of the men were sedentary, exercising less than an hour a week in the previous six months.

Each man was evaluated at the beginning of the study, two months after the program started and then again three month after the program. Significant differences were found between the men who had the intervention or group setting and those who did not.

Study results

The men placed in the exercise and diet group setting had gains in mobility and muscle strength with reductions in fat mass three months after the intervention.  They lost on average, about 4.4 pounds, 4 pounds of which was fat.  They also had a reduction in their body fat percentage which on average dropped more than 2 percent.  Mobility – measured by walking and stair-climbing tests – increased for the exercise group with muscular strength improving by about 20 pounds. 

The men who were not placed in the group setting actually saw loses in muscle mass and strength along with mobility.  These men gained a third of a pound and almost 2 pounds of fat mass on average with their body fat percentage increasing by 1.8 percent.  Their mobility related to walking and stair climbing reduced and little difference was found in muscular strength.

Nutrition counseling was provided by a registered dietitian, who gave advice during small group sessions after workouts and on brief phone calls.  A plant-based diet was encouraged for the men to follow and to adopt other nutritional guidelines supported by the federal government and medical groups including the American Cancer Society.

In conclusion

The main takeaway from this study is that every prostate cancer patient and survivor needs to find his own limits when it comes to exercise and eating habits.  By incorporating regular habits of exercise to maintain muscle mass and strength and healthy styles of eating, this natural, holistic approach in reducing ADT side effects vastly improves quality of life for men with prostate cancer.