Pulmonary Rehab or Prehab? Exercise for Lung Cancer Patients

Pulmonary rehab is gaining popularity as it’s been proven to help patients with COPD and other pulmonary diseases live longer, higher quality lives. There’s a new initiative to help patients who have lung cancer and other pulmonary diseases, and it’s being called “prehab” – taking care of problems before and during treatment, instead of waiting until after.

Getting the best out of treatment

Already several decades ago experts concluded that exercise was an important part of staying healthy, even during cancer treatment. New research is showing that exercise is not only beneficial after treatments, but very much so beforehand. It can help patients endure treatments better, and it can even increase rates of survival. 

While prehabbing can help all kinds of patients, it seems to be particularly suitable for pulmonary patients. These patients often have trouble breathing, and often present with other comorbidities, such as vascular diseases. This makes it all the more difficult to exercise, and all the more important. Doing the pulmonary rehab before treatment helps them with breathing and allows for smoother and more effective treatment.

Benefits of pre-hab

Doing a pre-rehab can help patients in a number of ways. 

  • It can help with the treatment itself, preparing the body for what it’s going to undergo and making it more resilient to the pressure and more open to the treatment.
  • It can help with the fatigue that often comes after treatment.
  • It can help them recover function more quickly after a treatment.
  • It can boost emotional function and well-being, partly due to the exercises themselves and partly due to the overall good feeling that comes with taking control of your life.
  • A “preoperative pulmonary rehab” program can help a person get ready for surgery, sometimes when the person would otherwise not be able to have surgery. Studies have shown that someone who goes through a 4 to 6 weeks program improves their likelihood of being able to have important, life-saving surgeries.
  • It can also help in recovery from surgery, as people who have it before surgery have improved recovery times.

So what does in prehab?

The most important part of pulmonary rehab, both before, during and after treatment, is the physical exercise, which prepares their body for recovery. The key is to learn which exercises are best for the patient and how to do them to maximize effectiveness. Other parts of the program include education about health and proper nutrition, eating a proper diet and living a healthy lifestyle. Most programs are between 4 and 6 weeks long and have the patient come in 2 or 3 times a week for about an hour for each session. Another benefit of the program is the community aspect, where people who are dealing with the same issues can meet and feel camaraderie.

Don’t forget the pulmonary rehab

To sustain the positive effects of prehab, patients should always follow up with a pulmonary rehab program for after the treatment. It will allow patients to continue or maintain progress in recovery and feel confidence and improved mental health.

It also has secondary effects, which include prevention of falls and improved heart health. Patients who take a prehab program don’t need a full program again, but they need to keep up with what they learned. The improvements in their lives will allow them to live more fully and have more satisfaction from their social lives.


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