Cancer prehabilitation helps pave way for a smoother recovery from treatment

Posted by Sheryl M Ness, MA, RN @smness, Mar 12, 2015

Cancer prehabilitation helps improve your baseline health before you begin cancer treatment and decrease the chance of having difficult or severe post-treatment side effects.

Many of you experience muscle weakness, pain, fatigue, appetite changes and emotional stress while going through treatment. Prehabilitation strategies address both physical and emotional health.

Each person may identify a variety of goals. However, it’s common to work on physical strength, nutrition and stress management before treatment. The idea centers on developing healthy habits and strengthening the body and mind, leading to a faster recovery.

If you’re recently diagnosed, you may feel like things are out of your control. Prehabilitation helps you take back a sense of control and play an active role in your treatment and recovery. Here are a few strategies to help you get started:

  • Build strength — increasing your fitness level prior to cancer surgery or treatment may reduce the length of time you need to recover and minimize complications. Ask to meet with a rehabilitation or exercise specialist to receive personalized recommendations.
  • Improve your diet — nutrition plays an important role in recovery. Do your best to increase intake of healthy proteins (lean meats, fish, nuts and legumes), fruits and vegetables, and reduce the amount of sugar, fat and salt in your diet.
  • Manage stress — explore stress management skills that work for you. This will help you cope with anxiety during surgery and/or treatment and recovery. Techniques such as deep breathing, guided imagery, gentle yoga and tai chi all may help.
  • Stop smoking — smoking can put you at a higher risk for many surgical and treatment complications, such as infections, wound healing and cardiovascular health.

Ask your doctor about prehabilitation if your situation allows you time before beginning treatment.

Read more on the Living with Cancer blog here

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