Prehabilitation 'aids cancer patients'

24 October 2014 12:10

Training on a bike three times a week could improve cancer patients' fitness after chemoradiotherapy treatment but before surgery, doctors say

Training on a bike three times a week could improve cancer patients' fitness after chemoradiotherapy treatment but before surgery, doctors say

A pre-surgery fitness regime can return cancer patients to the same activity levels seen before chemoradiotherapy treatment - and within six weeks, researchers claim.

Doctors at the NIHR Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit have studied how "prehabilitation" - or exercise training prior to surgery - can improve function and quality of life in bowel cancer patients.

Prehabilitation is an exercise regime that occurs prior to any surgical operations but after a treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The researchers found that patients' fitness levels returned to pre-treatment levels following bike training three times a week.

Professor Mike Grocott, a consultant in critical care at Southampton General Hospital, and his team further found those who did not participate in the tailored exercise programme remained at post-treatment levels or saw their fitness deteriorate.

Figures show more than 9,000 people in the UK were diagnosed with the rectal form of bowel cancer in 2012. Holidays can be a good way for cancer patients and those undergoing treatment to get some rest and relaxation, as well as adding more exercise to their daily routines. Specialist travel insurance for cancer patients can be arranged.

Malcolm West, NIHR surgical academic clinical fellow, said interventions to improve a patient's recovery traditionally come after surgery, not before.

Despite the decline in fitness rectal cancer patients can experience after chemoradiotherapy regimes, the study co-author says the research has now shown "it can be reversed by a supervised, individually tailored, exercise training programme."

A total of 22 patients, with an average age of 64, completed the exercise programme at Aintree University Hospital and the University of Liverpool, with 17 placed in a control group.

After the year-long follow-ups, Dr Sandy Jack, a consultant clinical scientist and exercise specialist, said the team saw a reduction in length of stay, readmission rates and cardiorespiratory complications among the patients participating in the early exercise programmes.

The study has been published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia.

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