Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

Preparing patients for cancer treatment

Prehabilitation improves speed of recovery after treatment

30 May 2022

Research from Southampton shows that improving the physical and mental wellbeing of people with a cancer diagnosis before their treatment begins, can significantly improve recovery.

“Prehabilitation for cancer patients focuses on trying to boost people's physical and emotional wellbeing prior to treatment, such as a big operation,” says Dr Chloe Grimmett, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Psychosocial Research in Cancer (CentRIC+) at the University.

Chloe works with the Clinical and Experimental Sciences team and the Fit-4-Surgery Consortium. They support people from the point of diagnosis and determine each person’s level of fitness, nutritional status and emotional wellbeing, to develop a plan that works for them to get them as physically and mentally fit as they can be before treatment.

I’ve seen the physical and mental health benefits people affected by cancer can experience by being involved in a prehab programme before cancer surgery. I also want to find the best way to support individuals to be active for the long term, aiding recovery, and maximising their quality of life and wellbeing

Dr Chloe Grimmett - Senior Research Fellow

Taking back control

Chloe explains that there is still a huge amount of fear associated with receiving a cancer diagnosis. “The person may be distressed or anxious, they may be worried about the impact of treatment on their body and the way they look, they may withdraw into themselves or feel that they are not in control of the situation”.

“Patients will often ask what they can do alongside their treatment plan set out by the clinicians. Engaging in a prehabilitation programme gives them an opportunity to take back some of that control and allows them to focus on positives.”

Morag, who had oesophageal cancer and was part of the Wessex Fit for Cancer Surgery (WesFit) trial, said: “I said to my husband on the way into hospital on the morning of my surgery: ‘Well, we have done absolutely everything we could to help the outcome of this’. And that was very comforting – to feel that I couldn’t have done anything more. And I got a good result – out within 10 days, which was really good for me, emotionally.”

The team has planned a pilot prehabilitation service (PeriopFit), funded by the Wessex Cancer Alliance, at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS), which they hope to launch later in 2022

Success for me would be every person with a diagnosis of cancer, at a very early point in that process, being offered a person-centred prehabilitation programme with all the support they need to prepare them for their treatment and beyond.

Dr Chloe Grimmett - Senior Research Fellow

“I would like to see this prehabilitation programme being revisited after each patient has had their surgery or treatment, so that it can be adapted to their own particular circumstances. This means that we have continuity of care for each person to maximise their recovery,” says Chloe.

Continuity of research

The prehabilitation research and proposed pilot scheme uses data collected from a previous project from CentRIC+ known as the Macmillan CREW Study – a cohort study to explore recovery of health and wellbeing following primary treatment of colorectal cancer.

“Each project or study we do increases our knowledge of the challenges facing our patients in terms of their cancer and subsequent recovery. No project is conducted in isolation and the overall aim is to offer truly persons-centred care.

“The pilot scheme at UHS is the next step in this process and we hope we are able to offer this to Southampton patients later this year.”

Read more about CentRIC+ and Chloe’s research.

Related Staff Member

You may also be interested in:

Apple watch

Reducing the size of the obesity problem

Researchers at Southampton are helping people to lose a clinically important amount of weight – five per cent – sufficient to halve the incidence of diabetes.

Privacy Settings