It is internationally recognised that exercise programs are beneficial for cancer survivors and should be integrated into the cancer care pathway. However, for patients residing in the Western region of Melbourne, there are currently no health service specific cancer rehabilitation programs available. Western Health (WH) partnered with Djerriwarrh Health Services (DjHS) to pilot a rehabilitation program at Melton Health (MH).
Two separate breast and prostate specific rehabilitation programs, of one hour education and one hour exercise, twice a week for six weeks was developed. The education programs were designed following close consultation with consumers. Exclusion criteria included: all other tumour streams, patients receiving active radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy and unable to independently participate in a group setting either due to physical or cognitive limitations.
Two breast and one prostate cancer rehabilitation groups were piloted at MH. A total of 39 patients were referred, with each group enrolling 5-8 patients. Of those referred, reasons for non-enrolment included not feeling ready to exercise, not feeling well enough or already returned to pre-morbid level of functioning. Breast and prostate cancer participants completed an average of eight and seven sessions respectively over the course of six weeks. All participants reported the program to be beneficial and provided them with self-management strategies. Participants also reported a change in attitude towards exercise and valued the social element that the program provided.
An effective partnership was developed between a tertiary and community health service to establish a cancer specific rehabilitation program that was feasible and acceptable for patients with breast or prostate cancer. The breast cancer rehabilitation group is now embedded as part of the exercise rehabilitation program at MH. A men’s cancer exercise group is currently being developed in response to the outcomes from the pilot prostate cancer group.