Prehab4Cancer Programme Manager Kirsty Rowlinson-Groves, originally set up her first Cancer rehab programme CAN-Move in Salford in 2014. The programme was set up as a pilot and worked with patients diagnosed with three types of cancer – Breast, Bowel and Prostate. The programme had a successful pilot phase and following an evaluation process Salford CCG fully funded the CAN-Move programme for 5 years and with a full expansion to all Salford patients recovering from any cancer.
In 2018, following the work with CAN-Move, Kirsty met with Dr. John Moore and Zoe Merchant and worked to establish a steering group to co design the new Prehab4Cancer Programme which works with patients with one of the 3 following tumour types: lung, colorectal, and upper gastrointestinal. The innovative programme caters for people from 18 years upwards who are diagnosed with one of the cancer types and are placed on a surgical treatment pathway. Prehab4Cancer is delivered through GM Active: a collection of Greater Manchester organisations that all sign up to the same belief of encouraging and supporting an active region.
Kirsty and the GM Active team deliver prehab and recovery programmes for cancer patients. Patients come to the programme a week or so after initial diagnosis and are referred by the clinical teams in the hospitals. The first step is a baseline assessment centre, which is fully holistic and assesses their physical capabilities, wellbeing status and nutritional statistics. Naturally, it’s also crucial to carefully-consider their mental health.
From there, a pre-hab exercise programme is implemented, based on areas of weakness. ‘We focus on aerobic fitness, as this can significantly boost post-surgery outcomes,’ says Kirsty. ‘We work on independent muscles groups, those that help you to get out of bed, sit up and climb stairs.’
The second assessment takes place just before surgery to assess the impact of the Prehab phase. The patients are then invited back for a post op assessment around 6 weeks after surgery. The team then work with the patients for a 12 week rehabilitation period and a final assessment is completed at the end of rehab.
‘We assess the impact of their operation before beginning the rehabilitation phase,’ Kirsty says. ‘From then, the activity is much more fun, flexible and free. There’s no specific system or muscle group to focus on, we just work to get the person back to fitness and able to cope with everyday life. The goal is helping that person remain active for the rest of their lives.’
The programme sets goals for the post-surgery patients and targets for them to achieve. Yet their focus is on building active habits they can maintain for life. Kirsty and her team introduce new gym equipment, encourage swimming and invite participants to join new classes.
The programme works closely with the clinical team at the hospital, providing a contact point for clinical questions. They’re able to swap concerns and share data on patient progress. ‘The surgeon will typically strongly encourage the patient to join an exercise programme on diagnosis, and often refer them into us,’ says Kirsty. ‘The hospital staff and our Prehab4Cancer team collectively reinforce the message that keeping active is vital on cancer diagnosis, surgery recovery, and beyond for a continued healthy lifestyle.’
When Kirsty received the email to tell her she’d been nominated for the GM Mayor’s Award, she was incredibly humbled. ‘I thought it must be a mistake at first,’ she admits. ‘Yet I soon learned I’d been personally nominated by the Project Lead at the Cancer Board, members of GM Active and a hospital Clinical Director for my six years’ work in cancer rehabilitation.’
Six years ago, Kirsty launched Can-Move: a project in Salford for residents who’d been diagnosed with cancer and encouraged them to join a three-month activity programme. ‘It’s clear that everything included in setting up and developing Can-Move made Prehab4Cancer possible,’ she says. ‘If we can do this anywhere, it’s Greater Manchester.’
The campaign aims to inspire, reassure and support people to be active by showing people living with a variety of conditions – both visible and invisible – on their own journeys to being active.