As physical therapists (physiotherapists), we often see clients after an injury for rehabilitation, but we also can help clients prior to a planned surgery or intervention in the form of pre-habilitation. If you know anyone who has had a hip or knee replacement, chances are they would have started an exercise program before their surgery to get them in the best shape possible.
This same idea is behind pre-habilitation in the realm of oncology physiotherapy. We physical therapists can help anticipate your upcoming physical challenges rather than react to them after the fact. Whether you are getting ready for a mastectomy, a bone marrow transplant, or gynaecological surgery, knowledgeable planning during any stage of treatments can be very helpful in maximizing your outcomes.
During prehab, getting guidance with regards to fatigue management strategies, sleep habits, and recommended activity and exercise levels help prevent physical deconditioning during treatment. Beginning treatment in good physical condition can help you tolerate treatments better and have improved overall outcomes.
Understanding some of the details about what will be done during your surgery can help reduce treatment anxiety. Your physical therapist can also teach you what to expect while you heal as well as prescribe you the right exercises for each stage of recovery that you will go through.
A pre-surgical exercise program aims to improve your overall physical condition or to address any pre-surgical physical impairments. It has been proven that pre-surgical strengthening and conditioning leads to improved post-surgical outcomes, fewer post-surgical complications, and facilitates a faster return to pre-surgical activity.
Pre-habilitation before radiation includes finding out expectations of how you might feel during radiation treatments. Swelling, stiffness, and fatigue are some side effects that can occur and preparing for this in advance can be helpful.
This knowledge is important so you can be proactive when monitoring your symptoms and general movement after radiation. Your physiotherapist will also show you how to do good self-care while undergoing these treatments.
Just as there is not a one size fits all approach to cancer treatments, the same can be said on how people decide to manage their diagnosis and treatment plan. There is no one “right” way to get through cancer treatments. If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer and the idea of doing some planning for your treatment seems like too much - that is completely understandable. Getting through treatments and the “wait and see” approach is just as valid as planning ahead. With that said, remaining as active as possible before and during cancer treatment can lead to fewer complications, less likelihood of treatment interruption and improved overall tolerance of treatment.