Cancer Wellbeing London

Preparing for your treatment

What can I do to keep myself healthy and prepare for treatment?

There are steps you can take to help improve your fitness before surgery to minimise complications and risks during the period around your operation and speed up your recovery and discharge from hospital. This is called “prehabilitation”. The advice we give applies to every patient undergoing any form of treatment – whether they are having surgery or medical treatment.

Evidence is emerging that patients with better levels of health and fitness may develop milder symptoms from COVID-19 and may recover faster. Therefore, our simple prehabilitation advice now applies to everybody. The simple steps are outlined below.

1.Exercise for the lungs and heart – try to exercise every day and avoid long periods of inactivity  – even small changes can be helpful. Physical activities can take many forms from walking, gardening and carrying out daily chores such as clearing and shopping, to more formal exercise such as cycling, running and completing a planned activity programme. If you are staying inside you could consider exercise videos such as those on the NHS live-well website here , or simply walking briskly around your home. Anything that gets you slightly out of breath will increase your fitness. If you have any concerns about getting fit, such as other health conditions impacting on your ability to be active, or want support on improving your physical activity your team can refer you to the physiotherapy team.

2. Strengthening exercises – in addition to exercise that gets you out of breath, exercises to strengthen your muscles will help you to recover from your treatment faster. Examples of strengthening exercises include lifting hand weights or carrying heavy bags, using resistance bands, climbing the stairs, or practicing sitting to standing repeatedly. For resources, advice, and links to strengthening ideas or videos please see the NHS live well page here.

3. Nutrition – eating a heathy diet will help with your strength and emotional wellbeing and help to boost your immune system. Watch this video from our partner’s website for general dietary advice here.

If you are struggling to eat enough or are losing weight please get in touch with your team who can refer you to the dietitians.

4. Psychological wellbeing –going through cancer treatment can be stressful at any time, but especially at present when our lives have changed in so many ways due to the Covid pandemic, and it is normal to feel scared or anxious. Taking time for activities that you enjoy and make you feel good, or which can distract you from worries or concerns can be really helpful. These can be simple things like doing a craft or hobby, having a bath or reading a magazine. Activities that help you relax, such as listening to music, breathing exercises and mindfulness can also be useful to manage worries and improve sleep. Friends and family can often help us to feel supported, although sometimes it can be hard to manage the questions and concerns of people you care about. Keeping in contact and spending time with people whose company and support you value can really help. Asking others to help you to keep everyone informed, or restricting your calls to certain times of the day can be useful to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Your team is here to help support your psychological well-being as well as your physical health, so please do speak to them if you would like further help or advice.

5. Smoking and alcohol – stopping smoking will help you if you were to contract Coronavirus. You should also try to remain within recommended limits of alcohol consumption with some alcohol-free days to improve your wellbeing. Take a look on the NHS live well website here for ideas and tips on how to do this.  Let your team know if you would like more advice or support to reduce your smoking or alcohol intake.

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