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  • Joanna Injore

What do I need to know about cancer prehabilitation?

You may be familiar with the term ‘rehabilitation’ but have you heard of ‘prehabilitation’? This blog will take a look at prehabilitation or ‘prehab’ as it is commonly known, so you know what it is, how it can help you, and where to get more support.

So, what is prehab?

Prehabilitation programmes were first started for patients undergoing surgery.

The aim was to prepare patients for surgery to reduce the risk of complications and improve recovery.

Cancer prehab has become more popular over the last 10 years and research into preparing patient before treatment (not just before surgery but also before chemotherapy and radiotherapy) was shown to be beneficial.

Prehabilitation for cancer patients is essentially preparing your mind and body prior to surgery or cancer treatment.

What happens during prehab programmes?

Usually prehab is made up of 3 different parts:

Assessment – to see how you are managing at the moment and identify the areas that you need support with

Intervention- Depending on the assessment you will be given a programme designed to improve your needs in improving your activity level, diet and wellbeing. This could be information or a specific activities depending on your needs

Monitoring- During the programme you should be monitored and given support along the way

What does prehab include?

Prehab programmes are all very different but they are usually 4-8 weeks before treatment starts and contain these core parts:

  1. Exercise- to improve you current activity levels, improve muscle strength overall fitness

  2. Nutrition- to ensure you are eating well during to prevent weight loss and malnutrition

  3. Wellbeing- to support you to reduce any stress and anxiety before treatment

What are the benefits for me?

cancer prehab image of man and woman running up stairs

Research into different prehab programmes for people affected by cancer has shown there are number of benefits:

  • Reducing your stay in hospital

  • Reducing pain and complications post surgery

  • Improving your cardiovascular fitness (i.e. how your body uses oxygen for exercise) and muscle strength

  • Improves your nutritional health and diet

  • Improves your sense of well-being and helps you feel more in control of your treatment

cancer prehab image of healthy foods

Where I get can help?

Availability of prehabilitation programmes depends on your area and whether your local Trust or hospital, where you are receiving treatment has developed a prehab programme for you. Check your medical team or clinical nurse specialist (CNS) if you they have a prehab programme you can be referred into.

If they don’t have any prehab programme, it is still a good idea to work on building your physical activity level and improving your diet before treatment starts.

My programmes are designed to ensure you have a detailed nutritional assessment so you can identify where you need to make improvements in your diet then we develop a clear action plan to get you where you need to be before treatment. I also support you to set some physical activity goals which will help to slowly improve your fitness levels and maintain your current level of strength. If you would like to discuss starting a programme before treatment please get in touch.

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