Exercise classes for cancer patients to improve survival

Monday, 19 March 2012

Cancer patients at Southmead and Frenchay Hospitals are now offered exercise classes to reduce the risk of the disease spreading or returning.

The hospitals, run by North Bristol NHS Trust, are taking a leading role in the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative to improve the chances and quality of life of a patient surviving cancer.

There is growing evidence that exercise as a vital part of cancer management and that it improves a cancer patient’s quality of life.

The classes are devised by hospital physiotherapists for patients who have completed their medical course of treatment for cancer.


It is part of the Trust’s Survivorship Programme to improve quality of life after cancer through ‘Living Well’ events that focus on:

  • Exercise
  • Eating well
  • Managing side effects of treatment
  • Financial information
  • Emotional support
  • Managing specific symptoms

There are also a series of more intensive courses for patients in small groups ran by our psychologists and the Clinical Nurse Specialists involved in the specific cancer team.

Dany Bell, Lead Cancer Nurse at North Bristol NHS Trust, said: “There is real evidence that exercise reduces risk of recurrence or progression of cancer and our Survivorship Programme is all about promoting a healthy lifestyle and educating and supporting patients to have the confidence to self manage their recovery or to live with cancer.

“The focus is on patient information, education and supportive self management.

“It has changed the way we deliver care following treatment by educating people on recurrence signs and symptoms look for at home, monitoring their test results remotely and then giving them direct access to a key worker and telephone clinics for support.

“We hope that by providing better information and support to patients we can reduce their need for outpatient appointments by equipping them with sufficient knowledge and understanding of their treatments and cancer in order for them to manage their own care and live more independently.”

Patients are offered Living Well courses free of charge either at North Bristol NHS Trust or at Penny Brohn Cancer Care in Pill, depending on their needs and choice of location.

The courses are run by the clinical nurse specialists and a team of therapists focusing on psychological and physical wellbeing.

North Bristol NHS Trust’s Survivorship Programme has been shared as best practice with other hospitals nationally.

 Frances Robertson, from Bristol, was diagnosed with a cancer called B-cell lymphoma in her chest two years ago.

Mrs Robertson has gone through a course of chemotherapy and has been taking part in the exercise classes over the past six weeks.

She said: “I was wary about doing upper body exercises, I wanted to get fitter but with supervision so these classes are a safe environment not just from the point of view of someone with cancer but also as an average person with the usual aches and pains.

 “When I started chemotherapy I couldn’t walk very far at all but now I walk to and from hospital and do not get out of breath.

“In a short time it has made such a difference, my strength has improved and I am working may way up to using the gym.

“But the best part of it for me is talking to other people who have gone through cancer.”

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