Prehabilitation: preparing for treatment
Prehabilitation is a series of measures you can take to help prepare you and your body for bowel cancer treatment. It aims to improve your health and wellbeing by making changes to your lifestyle such as diet, physical activity, and emotional wellbeing.
Prehabilitation has several benefits, it can:
- Reduce anxiety and improve your emotional wellbeing
- Improve your sleeping pattern
- Improve your energy levels and general fitness
- Support you to do more of your normal day to day activities
- Reduce the side effects of treatment
- Improve your body’s response to treatment
- Lower your chances of recurrence
- Promote a long-term healthy lifestyle
Being active helps improve your long-term health, maintain a healthy body weight and improve emotional wellbeing. This will help you prepare physically and emotionally for cancer treatment.
You can be more active by making everyday changes that build movement into your routine such as walking to the shops instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of a lift or escalator. If possible, you should try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity such as brisk walking, five times a week.
It’s important to gradually build up exercise to avoid getting injured. If you’re unsteady on your feet or unsure about exercise, speak to your treatment team for guidance.
We have more information and tips on building up your physical wellbeing on our website here.
The NHS Fitness Studio has a range of online exercise videos for all levels that can help you to get active.
A balanced diet can help to maintain a healthy body weight, improve your energy levels and support your general health.
Try to eat three meals a day but if you can only manage small meals then include healthy snacks in your diet. For example, fruit, Greek yoghurt or mixed nuts.
You should stay hydrated. It’s recommended that you drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid every day. Water and low fat milk are great choices.
Our Eating well booklet provides advice and tips on managing your diet during and after bowel cancer treatment. We explain how different foods can help you manage the symptoms of bowel cancer and provide tips for eating with a stoma, boosting your appetite and eating healthily.
It’s important to keep your alcohol intake to within the recommended limits or lower. You should try to drink no more than 14 units per week but ideally less. This will help your body to cope with future cancer treatment.
You can check if you’re drinking within the recommended limits here.
If you smoke, then it’s recommended you stop before starting cancer treatment. It will improve your general health and your body’s response to treatment. If you have surgery as part of your treatment, stopping smoking will speed up your recovery time and reduce the time you spend in hospital.
For help to give up smoking speak to your GP who can refer you to the NHS stop smoking service.
Looking after your emotional wellbeing
It’s normal to feel anxious before starting cancer treatment. However, there are some things you can do to help support your emotional wellbeing.
- Plan a routine for your day to give yourself structure
- Wake up and go to sleep at a similar time each day
- Keep in touch with friends and family
- Spend time outdoors in your garden or go for a walk
- Make time for activities you enjoy such as reading, listening to music, or cooking
- Practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques
- Take time to reflect on your day and what you found positive
We have a range of support and information on emotional wellbeing for you and your loved ones here.
In our podcast episode on emotional health, George Alagiah interviews Greig Trout, 39 from Wokingham who was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer, along with Professor Claire Foster, Professor of Psychosocial Oncology from the University of Southampton, about looking after your emotional health. You can find all our podcast episodes here.
If you would like to learn about relaxation and mindfulness techniques, you may be interested in the Velindre Mindfulness app. Available from your App Store or Google Play.
For further support:
- visit our friendly online community forum
- speak to a Macmillan specialist adviser on 0808 808 0000
- find your local Maggie’s centre at maggies.org/our-centres