Prehabilitation study to improve outcomes for lung cancer patients

A woman and two men stand in a gardenPatients will be recruited for a study to see if an exercise program delivered in the time between diagnosis and medical treatment could improve physical and psychological outcomes for people with non-surgical lung cancer.

The feasibility study into prehabilitation for these patients will be undertaken by Thoracic Cancer Clinical Nurse Consultant Kirsten Mooney (pictured centre), from the WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network with support from the SMHS Innovation Team.

“The time period from when a person first has investigations for lung cancer until the start of treatment can be extremely stressful,” Kirsten said.

“The patient has to go through a number of tests then wait for results before a diagnosis can be confirmed and a treatment plan decided upon. Treatment planning can then take several weeks.

“This provides a window of opportunity to try to optimise the fitness and psychological wellbeing of these patients through prehabilitation,” said Kirsten.

The five year survival rate for lung cancer is only 16 per cent, and as the majority of lung cancer patients present with advanced disease, treatment usually involves both chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The disease also has one of the highest symptom burdens including fatigue, depression, loss of appetite and weight loss, but prehabilitation has been shown to improve treatment tolerance and outcomes, and could potentially increase treatment options.

“We know that engaging in exercise and prehabilitation prior to treatment or surgery has been shown to be not only safe, but also beneficial in a number of ways for patients with other types of cancer.” 

"The outcomes of this study could provide a great opportunity to demonstrate the benefit of an expanded role of physiotherapy in the management of patients with lung cancer.” The SMHS Innovation Team helped Kirsten progress the study by engaging PhD students to assess current resources available, which enabled access to a gym and physiotherapists at FSH.

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Last Updated: 18/08/2021