Preparing for Cancer Treatment? Cancer Prehab Can Help.

SBM: preparing-for-cancer-treatment-cancer-prehab-can-help

Malwina Lewicka, PhD Runway Startup Postdoc, Cornell Tech, Health Decision Making and Communication Co-Chair; Sara Fleszar-Pavlovic, PhD Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami, Health Decision Making and Communication Chair


No one is ever prepared to hear the words, “You have cancer”. The diagnosis understandably causes intense emotions of shock, sadness, and even anger. The future may seem unpredictable or outside of your control. And then comes the waiting, the constant anticipation as treatment plans are being solidified. Cancer treatment can be a slog of lab results, additional tests, authorizations, and appointments.

Waiting for cancer treatment to begin can be an emotionally challenging and frustrating experience. Many people have described this time as feeling like they are caught in a state of limbo where life seems to be on hold.

Fortunately, there are ways to take a more active role in your own cancer care soon after the diagnosis. In fact, cancer survivors that became more actively involved in their cancer care felt that it helped them reclaim a sense of control, made the navigation of this difficult experience slightly easier, and even expressed experiencing less stress and anxiety.

One way of getting some control back is through following principles of a scientifically-based approach called cancer prehabilitation or “prehab”.

Preparing for Cancer Treatment through Prehab

Cancer prehab empowers people newly diagnosed with cancer to maximize their physical health and psychological well-being before they start treatment. Tailored to individual needs, prehabilitation can help patients become and feel stronger when they initiate treatment, both physically and mentally, and withstand the challenges of cancer therapies with more resilience.

Prehabilitation may also help improve treatment outcomes, support a faster recovery, and improve patients' overall health. Patients may start seeing the benefits of the program within just two weeks.

What is Cancer Prehabilitation?

Prehabilitation typically involves a plan consisting of exercise, nutrition (e.g., dietary advice), and psychological interventions regimen (e.g., counseling, stress management therapy). Some elements of these interventions can be completed by anyone who has cancer, others may require monitoring by health professionals. Getting screened to assess one’s psychological needs, as well as physical fitness and nutrition risk factors may help determine which approach is suitable for you.

Benefits of Cancer Prehabilitation

Better physical fitness

Exercises and physical activities tailored to individual needs may help improve physical fitness, which can increase the body's ability to tolerate and recover from cancer treatments.

Enhanced psychological well-being

Cancer treatment can be emotionally challenging. Prehabilitation includes psychological support to help patients manage the emotional aspects of their diagnosis and treatment. It may also help increase adherence to treatment.

Increased treatment tolerance

Cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy can be taxing. Prehabilitation can help improve physical fitness, and nutrition, which can strengthen one’s ability to tolerate and respond to treatment.

Reduced treatment-related complications

Improving one’s health before cancer treatment can help reduce the risk of treatment-related complications. It may also reduce the impact of side effects and improve treatment outcomes.

Faster recovery

By maximizing physical fitness before the start of treatment, prehabilitation can contribute to a faster recovery. It may also offset deterioration of overall health, and help cancer patients regain strength faster. This can facilitate a smoother transition to post-treatment life.

There is no one way of getting through cancer and cancer treatment. Specific experiences and challenges can vary widely among individuals. Informed by science and healthcare experts across the globe, cancer prehab is one way of getting involved in your cancer treatment, and positively impacting your physical fitness, psychological well-being, and treatment outcomes.

Speak to your provider to learn more, and how prehabilitation can be used in your own cancer treatment or cancer care of someone you know.

Learn More About Cancer Prehabilitation

More Articles

SBM: Prevention, Survival and Recovery from Cancer: The Case for Exercise

Prevention, Survival and Recovery from Cancer: The Case for Exercise

Research shows that exercise and physical activity can help prevent cancer, as well as increase odds for survival and improve recovery. Learn ways to improve functioning and quality of life after cancer with exercise.

SBM: Coping in the Era of COVID-19: Lessons Learned from Cancer

Coping in the Era of COVID-19: Lessons Learned from Cancer

The combination of winter and COVID-19 means that, now more than ever, it is important to employ positive coping strategies and engage in stress and anxiety reducing activities.

SBM: Six Ways to Support a Friend with Cancer

Six Ways to Support a Friend with Cancer

Hearing the news that a friend has been diagnosed with cancer can come as a shock - especially when it happens to a friend. Here are six ways to support a loved one who was recently diagnosed with cancer. 

« Back to Healthy Living