Meet Health with Hawthorn

Health with Hawthorn developed a cancer rehabilitation programme with Prostate Cancer UK, in Middlesbrough, thanks to funding from The Movember Foundation.

The big idea

Physical activity after cancer and cancer treatment has well-documented benefits. Specifically, it can reduce the risk of prostate cancer specific mortality by approximately 30 per cent and slow disease progression by up to 57 per cent. Many men reduce their levels of physical activity after a prostate cancer diagnosis and typically get little lifestyle advice or information about physical activity during diagnosis or treatment. This is despite the fact that men are more likely to participate in physical activity if a healthcare professional recommends it.

After prostate cancer treatment men receive little advice or support about physical activity. We wanted to commission a tailored physical activity group programme in Middlesbrough that aimed to help men adjust to life with prostate cancer and the unwelcome side effects of treatment. The programme would provide group support, information and physical activity to men affected by prostate cancer and their families, resulting in improved physical function and independence.

Making it happen

The programme aimed to maximise physical function, promote independence and help people adapt to their condition by:

  • delivering a 13-week health and lifestyle programme to address key health issues facing men with prostate cancer
  • providing each man with three one-to-one and four group information sessions on key issues that may affect men with prostate cancer
  • tailoring a six week physical activity programme for the group and for each individual to improve access to local exercise facilities.

The project measured men’s wellbeing and documented men’s self reporting of their physical wellbeing, social wellbeing, emotional wellbeing, functional wellbeing and fatigue. We used an evaluation questionnaire at the beginning and end of the project to document changes to participants’ wellbeing. We also used the FACT-P questionnaire, the FACIT fatigue scale, the Chair Stand Test and Three-Minute Step Test to get quantitative data about the men’s wellbeing and physical fitness.

Finding out what works

  • 100 per cent of participants reported a positive physical and emotional impact from the course
  • 63 per cent of participants reported improved social wellbeing
  • 63 per cent of participants reported improved emotional wellbeing
  • 100 per cent of participants reduced their blood pressure
  • functional fitness increased by 68.5 per cent (Chair Stand Test)
  • fatigue scores improved by 21.3 per cent (FACIT-Fatigue questionnaire).

Additionally, men reported that as a result of the course they understood more about fatigue, which helped them identify and manage the symptoms. Men also reported increased confidence in starting or restarting an exercise routine. This was particularly marked for men experiencing side effects like incontinence or fatigue.

"I am capable of doing exercises that will enable me to recover my self-esteem."

Finally, 50 per cent of participants reported improvements in erectile function. This wasn’t a symptom we targeted directly, but might be due to:

  • pelvic floor exercises, introduced in the first group session and reinforced throughout the programme;
  • space to explore feelings of loss, inadequacy and shock. This led to a gradual improvement in self-worth and confidence (adjustment to change).