Cancer Rehab and “Prehabilitation” – Assessment and Prevention

Here at Oncology Rehab and Wellness, we’re with you on your journey to recovery.  What few may know is that your journey to recovery can start before you begin your cancer treatments.  A growing pool of scientific research and data shows that starting your recovery before you undergo your cancer treatments increases your physical health and chances of complete recovery.  This process is called cancer prehabilitation.  It is essentially cancer rehabilitation BEFORE treatment or surgery to help you prepare for the rigors of treatment.

Cancer prehabilitation serves two main benefits.  First, it prepares your body to handle future treatments, and second, it acts as a preventative to any negative effects of treatment.  Prehabilitation has also been shown to decrease medical costs in post-treatment services. 

So how does cancer prehabilitation work and what does it entail? 

Assessment Before Treatment

Once you have been diagnosed, your oncologist may assess you to determine if there is anything that could negatively affect your cancer treatment. This assessment is vital to pinpointing exactly what issues your body currently has, your current psychological state, and how you may tolerate cancer treatment or surgery.  It gives your oncologist, your mental health therapist (if needed), and an oncology physical therapist a foundation for laying out a program that will help you improve and possibly resolve any issues before treatment. 

If you do not have any current or potential problem areas, maximizing your pre-treatment health will become your primary goal.

Your ORW therapist will develop a cancer rehab/prehab program that is individualized to you, based on what you/your oncologist may determine is needed to prepare you for cancer treatment.  These programs generally consist of exercises or stretches that will increase the strength and flexibility of your musculoskeletal system (learn more about your musculoskeletal system in our last blog here).  Gaining strength, improving your musculoskeletal health and improving your cardiorespiratory status can help your body endure the rigors of cancer treatment and/or set you up for a better recovery from cancer-related surgery.

We do want to note that, while we are primarily talking about physical assessment here, mental assessment is also an important aspect of cancer prehabilitation.  Physical health and mental health are intertwined — you can’t truly have one without the other.  Being mentally prepared for what you will physically experience is a huge step toward an optimal outcome. 

A health and focused mind-to-body connection will help you enter your treatments in a positive and realistic place. Your increased awareness of your body and how it works will help you as you implement your tailored prevention program. 

Your Specialized Prehab Program

Your program from ORW will be tailored to your needs to help you build strength in any weak or compromised areas. Possible exercises may target improving your endurance, strength or mobility.  The best thing is that your program is not just yours to go through alone. At ORW, we partner with you to help you through your program and to make sure that all is going well. We track your progress and will make any necessary adjustments to keep you moving toward your goal.


Cancer prehabilitation shows promising results in preparing patients for impending treatments.  In many ways, prehabilitation allows you to prepare yourself as you face new challenges.  Prehabilitation gives you more control over your situation, ways to take action now, and improves your health and fortitude for what is ahead. Cancer rehab isn’t just for after treatment anymore!

Given these benefits, we highly recommend you seek an assessment and program that will focus on your physical and mental health. For more information about our cancer prehabilitation services, including details about our exercise programs, read our page here.