Cancer patients who are physically fit before having surgery tend to have a better recovery.


Cancer patients who are physically fit before having surgery tend to have a better recovery. Unfortunately, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, which patients often receive before their surgery, reduce a patient’s fitness. Research at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has found that patients can maintain or even increase their fitness before surgery by taking part in an exercise programme in hospital. In order to find a model for delivering such a programme more widely in the NHS the team want to test if patients are also able to take part in such an exercise programme in the community (gyms and charity centres), and whether providing additional psychological support to prepare them for surgery (improving mental fitness) is also helpful to recovery.

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The WesFit study has been featured on BBC South today. Watch the video to hear the experiences of one of our study participants.

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Exercise programme

Delivered by personal trainers (PT) with level 3 cancer and exercise rehab qualification.

Psychological support

Weekly access to counselling and psychological support at local cancer information and support centres

All groups

Access to enhanced recovery package with health and wellbeing events held prior to surgery

The trial

Phase III pragmatic 2x2 factorial design randomised trial, assessing efficacy of implementation of a prehabilitation programme in patients undergoing cancer surgery.

Cancer patients undergoing intra-cavity elective major surgery; oesophageal, gastric, colorectal, thoracic and urology.

The patient experience

In previous hospital-based prehab exercise trials at University Hospital Southampton adherence rates have been high (up to 96%). Patients interviewed after the trial said they were able to build camaraderie and peer support and experience a sense of control

Continued support

When asked how we could improve the programme, patients said they would like continued support; help to get back to exercise after surgery. This trial has therefore added follow-up support to help patients get back to being active in the months after surgery

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