Before your operation for bile duct cancer | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Before your operation for bile duct cancer

Landing page cancer type image

This page tells you what to expect before you have an operation for bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). You can find the following information


A quick guide to what’s on this page

Before your bile duct cancer operation

Before your surgery, you will need blood tests to check your general health and see how well your kidneys are working. You will also have a chest X-ray if you haven’t had a CT scan already. And you will have tests to check that your heart is healthy and see how well your lungs work.

Your physiotherapist or nurse will teach you breathing and leg exercises. You can help yourself to get better by doing these exercises after your operation. Your surgeon will explain the operation and what to expect. They will get you to sign a consent form. This gives the hospital your permission to carry out the operation. You will also meet the anaesthetist. Ask your surgeon, specialist nurse and anaesthetist as many questions as you need to.

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating bile duct cancer section.



What to expect

Many people having surgery to relieve symptoms are already in hospital when their surgeon suggests surgery. They often stay in hospital for the few days before their operation. People having surgery to remove the cancer are usually given a date for their surgery and then have to wait a couple of weeks.

Waiting can be difficult. But it gives you time to prepare yourself and have any tests you need beforehand. It may also be a chance to sort things out at home or work. It is normal to be anxious before an operation. Knowing what to expect can help you to prepare and recover well. So do ask your doctors and nurses all the questions that you need to.

In the few days before your operation you will meet the people who are going to look after you. They will ask you to sign the consent form if you haven’t already done so. The form gives the hospital your permission to carry out the operation. You may also have some tests to check your general health.


Tests you will need before your operation

Before most types of bile duct cancer surgery you will need

You may have had some of these tests when your cancer was diagnosed. If so, you may not have to repeat them. As well as the tests above, you might also need

  • Breathing tests (called lung function tests)
  • An ECG while you are exercising

These tests check that you are fit enough to make a good recovery from your surgery.


Breathing and leg exercises

A physiotherapist will teach you breathing and leg exercises. It is very important to do these exercises as instructed because they will help you to get better more quickly.

The breathing exercises help to stop you getting a chest infection after the operation. Leg exercises help to stop blood clots forming in your legs. Both these complications of surgery can happen if you are not able to move around as much as you would normally. Your nurses will encourage you to get up and about as soon as possible after your operation. But if you have major surgery you may have to stay in bed for the first day or so.

If you smoke – remember that if you stop smoking before your operation, you will reduce your risk of getting a chest infection after your surgery. There is information about how to stop smoking on the Cancer Research UK website.


Your hospital team

When you go into hospital for your operation, your surgeon, anaesthetist, physiotherapist and nurse will come to talk to you about what will happen. Your surgeon will explain the operation and tell you what to expect when you come round from the anaesthetic. Do ask as many questions as you need to. The more you know about what is going to happen, the less frightening it will seem.


Eating and drinking

Your nurse may give you high protein, high energy drinks the day before your surgery. You won't be able to eat anything for 6 hours before the operation. In some hospitals you may also have to stop drinking at that time. But in some hospitals your nurse will ask you to drink a clear, energy rich fluid the night before your surgery and 2 to 3 hours before you to go the operating theatre. The drink gives your body energy during the operation and may help you to recover more quickly.


Getting ready on the day

Just before the operation you will need to

  • Change into an operating gown
  • Take off any jewellery and make up, including nail varnish
  • Take out contact lenses and false teeth

If you have a hairy abdomen, you will need a shave before your operation. This reduces the risk of wound infection after your operation. Your nurse may shave you in the operating theatre after you have had your anaesthetic.


More information about surgery

There is detailed information about what happens before an operation in our cancer surgery section.

Rate this page:
Submit rating


Rated 5 out of 5 based on 2 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 20 January 2015