Acceptability of prehabilitation for cancer surgery: A multi-perspective qualitative investigation of patient and ‘clinician’ experiences

Rachael Powell, Amy Davies, Kirsty Rowlinson-Groves, David P. French, John Moore, Zoe Merchant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: ‘Prehabilitation’ interventions aim to enhance individuals’ physical fitness prior to cancer treatment, typically involve exercise training as a key component, and may continue to support physical activity, strength, and fitness during or after treatment. However, uptake of prehabilitation is variable. This study investigated how patients from diverse socio-economic status groups perceive an exemplar prehabilitation and recovery programme, aiming to understand factors impacting acceptability, engagement and referral.

Methods: This research was conducted in the context of the Prehab4Cancer and Recovery Programme, a prehabilitation and recovery programme available across Greater Manchester, UK. Qualitative, semi-structured phone/video-call interviews were conducted with 18 adult patient participants referred to the programme (16 ‘engagers’, 2 ‘non-engagers’; half the sample lived in localities with low socio-economic status scores). An online questionnaire with free-response and categorical-response questions was completed by 24 ‘clinician’ participants involved in referral (nurses, doctors and other staff roles). An inductive, multi-perspective, thematic analysis was performed, structured using the Framework approach.

Results: Discussing and referring patients to prehabilitation can be challenging due to large quantities of information for staff to cover, and for patients to absorb, around the time of diagnosis. The programme was highly valued by both participant groups; the belief that participation would improve recovery seemed a major motivator for engagement, and some ‘clinicians’ felt that prehabilitation should be treated as a routine part of treatment, or extended to support other patient groups. Engagers seemed to appreciate a supportive approach where they did not feel forced to do any activity and tailoring of the programme to meet individual needs and abilities was appreciated. Initial engagement could be daunting, but gaining experience with the programme seemed to increase confidence.

Conclusions: The prehabilitation programme was highly valued by engagers. Introducing prehabilitation at a challenging time means that personalised approaches might be needed to support engagement, or participation could be encouraged at a later time. Strategies to support individuals lacking in confidence, such as buddying, may be valuable.
Original languageEnglish
Article number744
JournalBMC Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2023


  • Cancer
  • surgery
  • prehabilitation
  • recovery
  • acceptability
  • physical fitness
  • physical activity
  • adherence
  • engagement
  • compliance


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