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The 'pre-hab' gym classes to get patients fighting-fit BEFORE they go under the knife

Published on 06 February 2018  | Download | back to previous

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Exercise classes on the NHS are slashing post-operation recovery times for cancer patients from half a year to just a few weeks.

The ‘cancer pre-hab’ – offered before an operation – includes cycling, weight-lifting and running on a treadmill twice a week.

The initiative is part of a £200 million NHS England strategy to transform cancer care and comes after research at Southampton University saw bowel-cancer patients benefit from exercise programmes.

Those who took part in weekly cycling sessions returned to their pre-surgery fitness levels after six weeks, while fitness levels for those who didn’t participate either dropped or remained at the levels post-treatment.

he programme is now being piloted at gyms and cancer-support centres across Hampshire, Liverpool, London and Bristol.

Surgery is required for almost 80 per cent of cancer patients and recovery can take up to six months, with half of operations resulting in serious complications.

Major surgery can take even longer to bounce back from if patients have previously undergone a course of chemotherapy, as toxic drugs attack healthy cells as well as cancer cells, causing nausea, low energy, loss of muscle and a rapid decrease of overall fitness.

The Royal Surrey County Hospital is enrolling 50 cancer patients in a 15-week course which starts during or just after chemotherapy treatment, and six weeks before operations. 

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