Prehabilitation means getting your body into the best condition possible to cope well with treatment. This includes:
- Good diet and nutrition.
- Taking physical activity and exercise – even a couple of weeks of moderate physical activity, such as walking, gentle cycling or mowing the lawn can improve your physical fitness. Check first with your medical team which types and intensity of exercise are safe for you.
- Looking after your mental wellbeing and managing stress.
Depending on your circumstances, prehabilitation could include getting help to stop smoking or to reduce your alcohol intake. It can also involve managing any other medical conditions, such as anaemia and diabetes.
The NHS website has advice, information and resources to help you make healthy lifestyle choices.
Taking general good care of your physical and mental health can help to prepare you for treatment. Your treatment centre might have information about local services that could help you.
Personalised prehabilitation care plan (PPCP)
Your medical team might suggest a prehabilitaiton programme before you start treatment. However, in some cases, you might need to start treatment straightaway.
Your medical team work with you to identify your individual prehabilitation needs and advise you on how best to meet these. Sometimes, this is called a ‘personalised prehabilitation care plan’ (PPCP). Typically, you have an initial assessment so that you and your medical team can work together to identify your needs, make a plan (regime) and set goals for the coming weeks. The regime can last anywhere from a week to 2 months. Often, it lasts around 4 to 6 weeks.
Throughout your prehabilitation, you have regular follow-up appointments to check-in with your medical team, ask any questions you might have, get advice and support.
Prehabilitation can sometimes make more treatment options available to you because some are only suitable if you are well enough to have them.
Prehabilitation has a number of possible benefits, including:
- a shorter stay in hospital
- fewer side effects of treatment
- faster recovery
- fewer post-treatment complications
- improved overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Macmillan Cancer Support have published a report: Principles and guidance for prehabilitation within the management and support of people with cancer, which outlines three key benefits of prehabilitation for people diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers:
- A sense of empowerment, purpose and control.
- Greater physical and psychological wellbeing, which might reduce side effects of treatment. In turn, this can help you to live as fully as possible before, during and after treatment.
- Positive long-term health benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle.