Early research suggests that rehabilitation before cancer treatment can prepare the body for treatment and minimize some long-term effects, reports Kaiser Health News. According to a study published last year in the journal Anesthesiology, patients who receive prerehab for cancer treatment may be able to return to regular physical functioning more quickly than patients who do not:

“In one randomized controlled trial of 77 people with colorectal cancer who were awaiting surgery, two groups of patients participated in an exercise, relaxation and nutritional counseling program. Half went through the program in the four weeks prior to surgery and half in the eight weeks after it.
Eight weeks after their surgery, 84 percent of prehab patients’ performance on a six-minute walking test had recovered to or over their baseline measurements compared with 62 percent of rehab patients, according to the study, published last year in Anesthesiology.”

The idea that “prerehab” primes patients to better endure cancer treatment both physically and psychologically is causing some clinicians to focus on how delivery of these services can be broadened. “Prehab could be a relatively cheap way to get people ready for cancer treatment and surgery, both of them stressors,” says Dr. Francesco Carli, co-author of the study in Anesthesiology and a professor of anesthesiology at McGill University in Montreal.

In fact, a program that trains healthcare providers in interdisciplinary cancer prerehabilitation already exists. STAR, which stands for Survivorship Training and Rehab, was founded in 2009 by Dr. Julie Silver, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Silver believes that based on existing research as many as 90% of cancer patients stand to benefit from cancer-specific prerehabilitation. The STAR program that she founded incorporates physical, occupational and speech therapy targeted for patients before their cancer treatment and also includes acupuncture, nutritional counseling and massage therapy.

As research in this area grows, clinicians and healthcare providers will stay attuned to how prerehab services may positively impact cancer patients. To learn more, read the full article from Kaiser Health News.

By Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services