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Pre-operative exercise helps lung cancer surgery recovery

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Lung cancer patients who undertake one to four weeks of supervised exercise training before surgery have fewer post-surgery complications and go home earlier, a new systematic review has found.

A Curtin University-led review published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews reveals the benefit of supervised exercise before surgery in patients with lung cancer.

The review, which was supported by a Cancer Council WA Postdoctoral Fellowship, demonstrated that one to four weeks of exercise training before lung cancer surgery reduced the risk of post-operative complications by 67 per cent, decreased the length of hospital stay by four days, and cut the number of days a patient needed a chest tube by three days.

Lead researcher Dr Vin Cavalheri, from Curtin University’s School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, said the research suggested health professionals should consider referring lung cancer patients for supervised exercise training before surgery. The successful programs were supervised by trained professionals such as physiotherapists and exercise physiologists.

“This review found that supervised exercise training before lung cancer surgery reduces the risk of post-operative lung complications by as much as 67 per cent,” Dr Cavalheri said.

“It also found lung cancer patients who exercise before surgery have fewer complications after surgery and go home earlier. These results were mainly due to the improvement in the patient’s fitness levels following exercise training.

“Referring people with lung cancer to supervised exercise training before surgery is not part of current practice in Australia and New Zealand. However, this review highlights the benefits of pre-operative exercise training for people with lung cancer and suggests that health professionals, such as thoracic surgeons, oncologists and respiratory physicians, should refer patients scheduled to undergo lung resection for lung cancer to an exercise training program before surgery.”

The review was co-authored by Dr Catherine Granger from the University of Melbourne.

The full review Preoperative Exercise Training for Patients with Non-small Cell Lung Cancer can be viewed here.

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