We have partnered with the physiotherapy team at the Guy’s Cancer Centre and Guy’s Cancer Academy to develop free resources that can be used by health care professionals, leisure providers and people living with cancer, to encourage and support discussions about the benefits of physical activity and exercise.

Physical activity is vitally important for cancer patients at all stages of the cancer care pathway.  It helps with cancer recovery and managing the side effects of cancer treatment such as fatigue.  However, quality conversations between healthcare professionals and cancer patients about the benefits of keeping active are rarely factored into a patient’s treatment and care plan. Many patients are therefore unsure of what types of physical activities are safe and where they can access the right information.

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Physical activity should be considered part of routine cancer treatment

We are encouraging healthcare professionals who are caring for people living with cancer to access our guide of top tips for healthcare professionals on how to support patients to be active. The guide – created by the physiotherapy team at the Guy’s Cancer Centre - also includes tailored advice for specific types of cancer and treatments.

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We have also created a suite of patient information which provides a comprehensive overview of how to be active during and after a cancer diagnosis. It has practical information to help patients to remain active at each stage of their treatment, alongside helpful exercise videos and information on how to access local support groups in south east London.

Conversations about physical activity should be everyone’s business

Traditionally people with cancer were told to rest during their treatment, however there is strong evidence to support the role of physical activity during and after cancer treatment. Despite this, it is estimated that only 20% of people with a cancer diagnosis are doing the recommended levels of physical activity to support good health.

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We spoke to patients living with cancer about they have received advice and support about the benefits of keeping active. They said:

  • “I feel really let down by my cancer team that I was not made aware of what the benefits of exercise and being active mean for me”
  • “Yeah, I think they did [mention physical activity], but it was just, you know, pretty basic, just get out and about and you know. I don’t think it was really emphasised that much.” 

Isla Veal, Senior Physiotherapist at GSTT, who led the development of the resources, said: "The challenges of embedding conversations about physical activity within routine cancer treatment and care are complex and due to a number of factors, including lack of clinical education, time and confidence to speak to patients about keeping active, and also where to signpost to for more support.

“We want conversations about physical activity to be everyone’s business. We hope that these new resources will ensure that people living with cancer are having regular discussions with their healthcare professional about activity levels, and where necessary are directed to services that will help them to be active in a safe way.”

Isla Veal recently spoke to the hosts of the oncology podcast Rad Chat about the benefits of the exercise for prehabilitation and rehabilitation. Listen to the episode here: Rad Chat | E114: Isla Veal - Exercise Oncology Physiotherapy (transistor.fm)


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