After non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. It's also highly treatable if your doctor spots it early. For many men, though, the standard treatments for prostate cancer -- medication, radiation, and surgery -- often come with side effects.
Because of those side effects, some men wonder if there are any alternative medicine treatments for prostate cancer that might be helpful.
For instance, is it possible that dietary supplements -- like vitamins, minerals, and herbs -- might help treat prostate cancer or slow it from getting worse? Might they delay you from getting this disease in the first place? Clinical trials continue to investigate these questions.
Other men are interested in exploring mind-body treatments like yoga, meditation, and massage to ease the side effects of treatment and the stress of a cancer diagnosis. There's not a lot of research on these approaches, but some studies have found mental and physical benefits.
As you learn about alternative treatments, you might also hear them called “complementary” treatments. Lots of people use either term to describe an unconventional therapy that you use along with a standard medical treatment. (That’s what a complementary treatment is. Strictly speaking, an alternative treatment is something that’s used in place of a standard treatment.)
If you've been diagnosed with prostate cancer, listen to your conventional medical doctor. They’ll guide your treatment regimen using the latest proven cancer therapies.
Some complementary or alternative treatments for prostate cancer may be harmful when used with standard cancer treatments. Always check with your doctor before you use any natural supplement. That way they can make sure it doesn’t mix badly with your regular cancer treatment.
Here’s what the research says about supplements and mind-body practices that have been studied for prostate cancer.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. There’s a lot of it in some fruits and vegetables, particularly cooked tomatoes. Some studies show that people who eat diets high in tomatoes and other fruits high in lycopene have lower cancer rates. Some researchers even believe lycopene may slow the growth of prostate tumors. But the results of several studies haven’t been consistent.
You can get lots of lycopene from common foods. Researchers haven’t noted any side effects or suggested any precautions when it comes to eating this "super nutrient" as part of a balanced diet.
In rodent studies, scientists have shown a positive effect of pomegranate in reducing cancer cell growth in mice. Studies on human cells show similar promise. This has led some researchers to recommend doing more studies on pomegranate extract for therapeutic use in people.
You can drink pomegranate juice and eat the whole fruit as part of a balanced, healthy diet. Neither is harmful when you enjoy them in moderation.
It has plant-based compounds called polyphenols that may have an influence on tumors, but there’s not much data on how effective it might be.
One study in China suggested that drinking lots of green tea might help lower the chances of prostate cancer developing. Other studies haven’t found a link between green tea and prostate cancer risk among Japanese men or Japanese-American living in Hawaii.
A clinical trial of people with prostate cancer didn’t find any anti-tumor benefits.
Shiitake Mushroom Extract
In a small study of men with advanced prostate cancer, researchers had the participants take an extract of shiitake mushrooms by mouth each day for 6 months. They ended up concluding that the extract alone wasn’t an effective treatment.
Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP)
Pectin is a carbohydrate found in many plants and in the peels of apples, citrus fruits, and plums. This modified form of it is broken down into tiny molecules to help the digestive tract absorb it.
In animals, MCP has hindered prostate cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body. But so far, no study on people has shown that MCP helped reduce tumor growth or improved survival.
There's some scientific evidence that yoga can help with tiredness (or fatigue) resulting from cancer treatment. One study also found that men being treated for prostate cancer who took twice-weekly yoga classes said they had fewer sexual side effects and urinary problems than those who didn't do yoga.
The calming effects of meditation and other relaxation techniques can also benefit people with cancer. In a small study, mindfulness meditation showed promise for reducing anxiety, fear, and depression in men with prostate cancer.
Acupuncture, in which a trained practitioner inserts very thin needles into certain points on your body, might help ease pain caused by prostate cancer. Some people having cancer treatment also find it improves nausea.
Massage might also help to relieve pain, anxiety, and fatigue. But always use a trained oncology massage therapist to lower your chances of getting more health problems.
Remember that alternative treatments can't take the place of medical treatments for cancer. Always let your doctor know when you try a complementary treatment.