An allied health rehabilitation program for patients following surgery for abdomino-pelvic cancer: a feasibility and pilot clinical study

Support Care Cancer. 2020 Mar;28(3):1335-1350. doi: 10.1007/s00520-019-04931-w. Epub 2019 Jun 27.


Purpose: To investigate the feasibility of conducting a rehabilitation program for patients following surgery for abdomino-pelvic cancer.

Methods: A non-randomised controlled before-and-after study. Patients who had undergone surgery for stage I-III abdomino-pelvic cancer (colorectal, gynaecological or prostate cancer) were recruited. The rehabilitation group (n = 84) received an 8-week, bi-weekly education and exercise program conducted by a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist, health psychologist and dietician, supplemented by exercise diaries and telephone coaching sessions. The comparator group (n = 104) completed postal questionnaires only. Feasibility measures, functional exercise capacity, muscle strength, physical activity levels, pelvic floor symptoms, anxiety and depression, health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and self-efficacy were measured at baseline (time 1), immediately post-intervention (time 2) and at 6 months post-baseline (time 3) and compared within- and between-groups.

Results: The consent rate to the rehabilitation program was 24%. Eighty-one percent of the rehabilitation group attended 85-100% of 16 scheduled sessions. Overall satisfaction with the program was 96%. Functional exercise capacity, handgrip strength in males, bowel symptoms, physical activity levels, depression and HRQoL were significantly improved in the rehabilitation group (p < 0.05) at time 2. The improvements in all these outcomes were sustained at time 3. The rehabilitation group had significantly improved physical activity levels, depression and HRQoL compared with the comparator group at times 2 and 3 (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Recruitment to this oncology rehabilitation program was more difficult than expected; however, attendance and patient satisfaction were high. This program had positive effects on several important clinical outcomes in patients following abdomino-pelvic cancer treatment.

Trial registration: ANZCTR 12614000580673.

Keywords: Cancer; Exercise; Feasibility studies; Physical activity; Quality of life; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Abdominal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Aged
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / rehabilitation*
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Exercise Therapy / organization & administration
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pelvic Floor / physiopathology
  • Pelvic Floor / surgery
  • Pelvic Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Pelvic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urogenital Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Urogenital Surgical Procedures / rehabilitation*
  • Urogenital Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data