The trial of a new service for complex colorectal cancer patients in Harrow has achieved ‘phenomenal’ results.
The new prehabilitation service has resulted in an 11-day reduction in the length of hospital stays.
The two-year trial project, funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, saved London North West University Hospitals Trust approximately £176,000 in costs associated with keeping patients in hospital longer whilst they recover from surgery.
The project was spearheaded by Claire Taylor, Macmillan Nurse Consultant, and run by Macmillan Physiotherapist, Alice Finch, who was part of the complex colorectal cancer team at St Mark’s Hospital, Harrow.
Prehabilitation provides cancer patients with exercise programmes, nutritional information and psychological support before they have surgery. By increasing patients’ physical fitness, prehabilitation can reduce post-treatment complications and the length of hospital stays, improving recovery.
Chris, a film Director and father of three from Sandhurst was diagnosed with advanced rectal cancer in March 2020.
Chris said the following: “I’ve always been a big guy, a bodybuilder type. I went to the gym a lot, played football twice a week, I was healthy. After my diagnosis, I went from 120kg down to 60kg. I was skin and bone. I had a 12cm tumour that they managed to shrink to 1cm through radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Then the doctors told me that they needed to do surgery to remove what was left of the tumour.”
“Before my surgery Alice (Finch) gave me some prehabilitation exercises to incorporate into my gym routine. The exercises helped me build more strength in areas of my body that would be affected by surgery. She helped me work on my hips and lower body, as well as my chest and arms, knowing that I’d have to lift myself up out of bed after surgery. Alice was great, she was there for me whenever I wanted to discuss any worries I had.”
“After surgery, I was in a lot of pain. But two days into my recovery Alice and the team got me standing up out of bed. Every day they got me doing exercises bit by bit. It was simple things like helping me walk down the corridor, helping me shower, teaching me to get in and out of chairs, but it made all the difference to my recovery. I was out of hospital in three weeks, when it should have been much longer. The whole surgical team were amazed at the speed of my recovery.”
“I’d recommend prehab to all cancer patients who are facing surgery. Even if you’re very weak, you can still sit on your sofa and do exercises with resistance bands. The benefits outweigh any pain you put in beforehand. It may seem like you want to quit and that you’re feeling too tired or ill, but trust me, it will change your life.”
“Macmillan have been brilliant. Not only with my recovery in hospital, but with life after my surgery too. We were missing £400 from our benefits, that’s money I need to feed my kids. I’ve worked all my life. If you have a genuine illness, you shouldn’t be worrying about how to pay the mortgage,” he added.
Praising Macmillan for their help, Chris stated: “The Macmillan Cancer Support and Information Centre at Charing Cross Hospital helped me get the benefits I was entitled to. I also got a Macmillan grant to help my family out when we needed it the most.”
You can contact the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, open every day from 8am-8pm. Or visit our website: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/
Macmillan Physiotherapist, Alice Finch explained more about the Macmillan-funded programme: “Bowel cancer can spread to other organs in the pelvis and the surgery required to remove it is complex. Before the prehabilitation programme, patients had hospital stays of up to two months. After the programme was implemented, hospital stays were shortened, meaning that patients could return home to their loved ones sooner after their surgery.”
“There have been fantastic results following prehabilitation programmes across the UK, not only reducing hospital length of stay but also improving quality of life. Some small studies have even suggested prehabilitation may improve cancer-free survival after the surgery.”
“Prehab and physiotherapy after surgery significantly improve patients’ quality of life. There is a huge need for this service to continue.”
Claire Taylor, Macmillan Nurse Consultant said: “I hope that the positive impact of this trial will be long-lasting, and that we will have changed some of our patients’ exercise habits for a lifetime. We know that in many cancers, including colorectal cancer, keeping active reduces the risk of cancer reoccurring. There is a wider benefit here in terms of their overall health.”
The Macmillan Support Line has teams of trained cancer information and support specialists, who are there to listen to you, give advice and answer any questions you may have. You can contact the Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, open every day from 8am-8pm. Or visit our website: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/