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Cancer Prehabilitation: An Opportunity to Decrease Treatment-Related Morbidity, Increase Cancer Treatment Options, and Improve Physical and Psychological Health Outcomes

Silver, Julie K. MD; Baima, Jennifer MD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: August 2013 - Volume 92 - Issue 8 - p 715–727
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e31829b4afe
Review & Analysis
Press Release

ABSTRACT Cancer prehabilitation, a process on the continuum of care that occurs between the time of cancer diagnosis and the beginning of acute treatment, includes physical and psychological assessments that establish a baseline functional level, identifies impairments, and provides targeted interventions that improve a patient’s health to reduce the incidence and the severity of current and future impairments. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports preparing newly diagnosed cancer patients for and optimizing their health before starting acute treatments. This is the first review of cancer prehabilitation, and the purpose was to describe early studies in the noncancer population and then the historical focus in cancer patients on aerobic conditioning and building strength and stamina through an appropriate exercise regimen. More recent research shows that opportunities exist to use other unimodal or multimodal prehabilitation interventions to decrease morbidity, improve physical and psychological health outcomes, increase the number of potential treatment options, decrease hospital readmissions, and reduce both direct and indirect healthcare costs attributed to cancer. Future research may demonstrate increased compliance with acute cancer treatment protocols and, therefore, improved survival outcomes. New studies suggest that a multimodal approach that incorporates both physical and psychological prehabilitation interventions may be more effective than a unimodal approach that addresses just one or the other. In an impairment-driven cancer rehabilitation model, identifying current and anticipating future impairments are the critical first steps in improving healthcare outcomes and decreasing costs. More research is urgently needed to evaluate the most effective prehabilitation interventions, and combinations thereof, for survivors of all types of cancer.

From the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Julie K. Silver, MD, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, Countway Library, 2nd Floor, 10 Shattuck St, Boston, MA 02115.

Dr Silver is the cofounder of Oncology Rehab Partners, LLC, which developed the STAR Program (Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation). Dr Baima has no disclosures. Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins