Dealing With Stress During Prostate Cancer Treatment

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The problem with stress is that we are no longer being chased by ferocious lions on the African plain. Stress can be beneficial when it stimulates the fight or flight response and allows you to outwit a predator, but not so much in everyday life. Stress can affect your body in so many ways – from giving you a headache and insomnia to increasing your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Some studies also suggest that stress can contribute to prostate cancer. In 2009, radio host Don Imus informed his listeners that he believed his high level of stress caused his prostate cancer, and he may have been onto something. All in all, it appears that stress management for prostate cancer could be a good idea.

Stress and prostate cancer

Researchers have been studying the effects of stress on the treatment of prostate cancer. A study published in SAGE publication’s Integrative Cancer Therapies discussed the research of Dr. Gordon A. Saxe and others at the Moores Cancer Center and School of Medicine at the University of California at San Diego. They studied the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels of patients with prostate cancer. The patients began making dietary changes such as reducing the intake of meat and other fat sources while increasing the intake of fiber-rich foods like whole grains and vegetables.

Along with those changes, the patients participated in a stress reduction program that emphasized meditation, tai chi, and yoga. The study revealed that stress management and improved diet significantly lowered the rate at which PSA levels increased, and some of the patients experienced decreased PSA levels. This indicates that the growth of prostate cancer was slowed.

In 2005, Dr. Dean Ornish of the University of California at San Francisco discussed the results of his study of 93 prostate cancer patients. Half of the patients adopted a vegan diet, exercise routine, and stress-reduction program. They also participated in a support group. After a year, the PSA levels were retested. Dr. Ornish found that the men in the control group experienced an average rise in PSA levels of 6%. The men who adopted lifestyle changes, including stress management, averaged a 4% drop in PSA levels.

Stress management for prostate cancer

Stress management is easier said than done for some men. You’ll need to make a solid commitment to it. Set aside a block of time each day for meditation, yoga, or tai chi. Going for a daily walk can also help; any exercise is beneficial for stress management. Join a prostate cancer support group. Practice deep breathing. Stress management can take many forms. Experiment to find which techniques work best for you, whether that means practicing feng shui or heading off to the gym to duel with the punching bag.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, force yourself to take time-outs. If it works for a little kid throwing a temper tantrum, it can work for you, too. Remove yourself from the stressful situation as soon as possible. Go outside and get some fresh air, consciously relax your muscles, and steady your breathing.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Ornish D et al. Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer. Journal of Urology 2005 Sep; 174(3): 1065-69

SAGE Publications. Diet, stress management may help slow spread of prostate cancer. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2006.

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