NHS Trust launches 'prehab' service to help cancer patients exercise, stop smoking or ditch booze ahead of treatment

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Trust's Lisa Green -  personalised care manager for prehabilitation
-Credit: (Image: NHS)

A new "pre-hab" service designed to help people with cancer prepare for their treatment is set to launch in the South Tyneside and Sunderland this summer.

The idea is to ensure that people are in the best shape possible and have the best chance of recovering well and minimising the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy. A Macmillan nurse at the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Trust said the support would help people to follow the Princess of Wales' example of keeping your strength up during cancer care.

The programme is being made part of the trust's Cancer Information Hub - which will aim to help people cut down on alcohol, stop smoking and stay healthy through exercise - said this helped patients to cope with the stress cancer and cancer treatment puts on the body.

The research suggests that "pre-hab" can help patients avoid complications in surgery - such as chest infections and blood clots - while it can also mean people recover faster and get home from hospital sooner.

Macmillan Cancer Lead Nurse at the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Trust Kelly Craggs said: "Cancer treatment puts stress on the body, but we know it will cope better if a person is fit and living as healthily as they can. We know when Kate, the Princess of Wales, confirmed she was undergoing treatment that she said she was well and getting stronger, and this is exactly what this is about, living well and keeping your strength up."

Lisa Green is a physiotherapist who manages "personalised care" for prehab at the trust. She added: "We know receiving a diagnosis can be a really tough time for the patient and their loved ones and it can be very easy to turn to comfort food, cigarettes and a drink when life is a struggle.

“It is really important to use that time in between getting that difficult news and your treatment starting to get ready for what lies ahead. When we look after ourselves, we feel better all round and are more mentally prepared for what is to come.

“Even if there are a few short days or weeks before people go in for an operation or start their drug therapy or both, it all counts. We also encourage people to get their friends and family on board if they want to do this together and we know some people really value time alone to come to terms with their diagnosis too. It’s about whatever is right for you."

Lisa said this information had been added to the cancer information hub - and that this included detailed advice, and will soon see helpful videos and guidance. The trust hopes to launch a pilot this summer with a group of patients and offer expert help creating a "tailored programme" of healthcare advice ahead of treatment.

For more information, visit the Cancer Information Hub online here.