Cancer prehabilitation is a new term referring to medical care that may help newly diagnosed cancer patients prepare for their upcoming treatments. It occurs between the time cancer is diagnosed and the start of treatment. It includes psychological and physical assessments, with the ultimate goal of preventing or reducing long-term problems. Our team of lung cancer lawyers encourages patients to consider prehabilitation.
At the beginning of prehabilitation assessments determine baseline functional levels and identify impairments or anything the patient may need help with. From there, the medical team can provide interventions to promote physical and psychological health and identify best practices for each patient. This helps reduce the incidence and severity of future impairments, functional disabilities, pain, and emotional distress. Ultimately, prehab may reduce direct and indirect healthcare costs and improve patients’ quality of life.
For one lung cancer patient, Alberta, prehabilitation changed the course of her treatment for the better. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, her surgeon told her that she was not in good enough shape to be operated on and return home; in her current state, she would need to rely on a nursing home. Fortunately, Alberta had enough time to go through a prehabilitation program at her hospital.
Alberta began a tailored exercise program, which improved her stamina, strength and overall health. When her surgery date came, doctors expected her to remain in the hospital for three to five days. After the second night, however, she was able to return home.
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One recent study examined the effects of prehabilitation versus rehabilitation in patients undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer. Both groups received home-based interventions including moderate aerobic and resistance exercises, nutritional counseling, and relaxation exercises. Prehabilitation patients started this regimin four weeks before surgery, while the rehabilitation patients started immediately after surgery and continued for eight weeks.
The prehabilitation patients saw their functional walking capacity and walking test results increase more so than the rehabilitation patients. A higher number of prehabilitation patients recovered faster than the rehabilitation patients. Complication rates and duration of hospital stay remained similar between the two groups.
Researchers in this study concluded that prehabilitation programs can enact meaningful changes in post-surgery wellness.
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Cancer treatments are often toxic and disabling. Prehabilitation is different for every patient, depending on their unique needs, disease type, and health status. Some patients need help addressing their anxiety, and may benefit from meditation and guided imagery. Others may need help constructing proper meals with adequate protein. Patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers may require swallowing and speech exercises.
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All approaches are multi-modal. For example, a lung cancer patient’s prehabilitation might include smoking cessation, exercises to improve breathing, and behavioral interventions to reduce anxiety and stress. This requires a team effort, with a physical therapist, trained nurses, and mental health professionals.
The window of opportunity for prehabilitation is between diagnosis and treatment initiation the time spent seeking second opinions, undergoing further testing, or waiting for an opening on a surgeon’s schedule. Prehabilitation does not stop once treatments begin, however. Patients should continue exercises throughout treatment and afterward to reap the most benefits and continue improving physical and emotional health and quality of life.
All oncology centers, regardless of size, should offer cancer prehabilitation. If you or someone you love was recently diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma, contact our firm for a free consultation. We offer a free book, 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma, to anyone concerned about this disease. We accept clients nationwide, and are always here to help however we can.