Heart Disease Rehab May Help Bowel Cancer Patients

A health and exercise program may improve quality-of-life in patients recovering from bowel cancer.

Rehabilitation exercise programs for patients with heart disease can help people who have undergone bowel cancer surgery, a new study found.

Currently, the NHS already uses physical activity to help thousands of people with heart problems improve their chances of survival and quality-of-life. But researchers believe these same programs could be used to help people with different types of illnesses.

“People recovering from bowel cancer surgery are not currently meeting with the recommended levels of physical activity after they undergo surgery,” said researcher Gill Hubbard. “This could be for a number of reasons, but often patients do not know if they are safe to exercise.

“We wanted to bring together people recovering from heart disease and bowel cancer to see if the same rehabilitation program could work for both groups. We referred patients with bowel cancer to the cardiac rehabilitation classes and found cardiac patients welcome those with cancer into their classes. Both groups enjoyed exercising together and supported each other to make a full recovery.”

The rehabilitation program consists of both aerobic and body strengthening exercises for approximately 1 hour each week for 12 weeks, and according to researchers evidence shows that the exercises are beneficial for people with heart disease and cancer.

Although cardiac rehabilitation is established for people recovering from a heart attack, there is no equivalent rehabilitation program for patients with cancer at this time.

In the study, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, patients were asked to record their quality-of-life, anxiety, depression, and physical fitness, before and after the 12-week program. The views of physicians involved in cardiac rehabilitation were also gathered.

“We found cardiac clinicians were happy to involve cancer patients in their programs, but to make this work on a much larger scale additional training would be required to fully support cancer survivors,” Hubbard said. “Although a novel idea, we believe marrying these 2 quite separate groups during the rehabilitation process could vastly improve the quality of life for lots of people who are recovering from bowel cancer but do not have the confidence to exercise.”