‘Pre-hab’ lifesaving service for lung cancer patients at Barts Health

A potentially lifesaving ‘pre-hab’ programme is being trialled at Barts Health, to help patients become physically fit in order to undergo lung cancer surgery.

The study has been published in the Perioperative Medicine Journal.

The most common cause of cancer death in the UK is indeed lung cancer, with the North East London region historically having the highest lung cancer mortality rate in the country.

This is according to data from Cancer Research UK and UKLCC.

The best proven treatment for lung cancer is surgery with the difference between being fit enough or not to undergo a procedure is potential lifesaving.

Underlying comorbidities can be improved through physical exercise, such as COPD, to improve respiratory function; in turn, this can be the ultimate deciding factor as to whether a patient undergoes lifesaving lung cancer surgery or not.

‘pre-hab’ or ‘preoperative physiotherapy’ as it is known by its full term, is one of the first of its kind in the UK for lung cancer patients.

It focuses on progressive muscle strength and aerobic fitness training.

According to Barts Health:

‘Participants considered inoperable due to respiratory comorbidities were also treated using COPD management such as inhaled therapy, smoking cessation and pulmonary rehabilitation.’

‘For those patients limited by cardiac comorbidities or combined respiratory and cardiac comorbidities, access to cardiac services was provided by the Barts Health cardio-oncology service.’

The study found that out of the first 50 patients to undergo the pre-hab trial, 74% went on to successfully undergo surgery.

All those with cancer went on to have some form of treatment; radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

The surgical rate at Barts Health has more than doubled over the last five years from 12.8% to 29.8% – one of the highest in the UK.

Dr Will Ricketts, consultant chest physician at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: 

“Surgery is proven to save lives in lung cancer and that was the aim of this project, to save lives and enable our patients to safely undergo surgery, where they would not have been able to before. 

“Every patient who successfully goes through this pre-hab programme is a life saved and that is something we can be very proud of.

“Given the success of this programme I would recommend that this should be a standard of care for all lung cancer patients in the UK.”