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Royal Surrey Gets Cancer Patients Fit for Surgery

Published on: 30 Sep, 2017
Updated on: 2 Oct, 2017

The Royal Surrey County Hospital is getting cancer patients to increase their physical fitness prior to for surgery, as part of a new clinical trial.

Patients will receive a 15 week prehabiltation, or ‘prehab’, programme, with an exercise scientist to prepare them for surgical procedures.

The study is aimed at patients who are facing a ten-hour long operation for oesophageal and stomach cancer.

Prior to surgery this group of patients usually undergo nine weeks of chemotherapy and in most cases their fitness levels deteriorate.

It is hoped that patients who have undergone the ‘prehab’ programme will be fitter and as a result their bodies will be better prepared for surgery and to deal with any complications that may arise from this major, high-risk surgery.

The trial is randomised, which means half of the patients will receive the “prehab” programme, while the other half continue with “standard care”.

Those receiving “prehab” will benefit from two one hour long fitness sessions per week, exercises to complete at home three days a week and six sessions with a medical coach to help keep them motivated.

All participants’ fitness will be assessed using an exercise bike test at various points during their care, including before and after chemotherapy.

Mr Javed Sultan MD FRCS, a consultant oesophago-gastric and laparoscopic surgeon, who is leading the trial with Sophie Allen, surgical registrar, said: “This is the biggest operation you can have as a patient at this hospital. It involves opening both the chest and abdomen. A major insult to the body. It is like being hit by a bus.

“I tell my patients that this operation is like a marathon and this trial is training them for that marathon. You wouldn’t line up to run 26 miles without doing any training, so why would you go into a 10 hour operation that will have a huge impact on your body without any preparation?

“The preparation requires the whole multidisciplinary team to co-ordinate their care. This includes the nurse specialists, dieticians, personal trainers, anesthetists, medical coaches, oncologists and many more hospital staff. I am grateful for everyone’s passion, engagement and help to make this happen.

“We hope the trial will improve fitness levels and ultimately outcomes for patients and will show that if a patient is fitter, then their body is better prepared to deal with any complications that occur with a quicker recovery.”

Miss Allen added: “One of the participants said he hadn’t felt better in 40 years, even during his chemotherapy.”

The hospital trust has already recruited 30 patients to the study, which has been funded by Macmillan Cancer Research, and hopes to sign up 50 participants in total.

Mr Javed Sultan and his team are also hoping to secure further funding, so that they can continue their excellent work next year once the trial is completed.

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