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After your mesothelioma surgery

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This page tells you about what to expect after having an operation for mesothelioma. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

After your mesothelioma surgery

When you wake up, you are likely to have several tubes in place to give you fluids and painkillers, drain the wound, drain your urine, and drain fluid from your stomach to stop you feeling sick. You may also have an oxygen mask.

After surgery for pleural mesothelioma, you can usually start eating and drinking again on the day after the operation. After surgery for peritoneal mesothelioma, it may be longer before you can eat or drink. As soon as the doctor can hear your bowel working again, you will be able to start taking sips of water. Gradually you will work up to eating and drinking normally.

The nurses will help you to get up and move around gently as soon as possible. This helps you to get better and makes complications such as chest infections or blood clots much less likely.

You will almost certainly have some pain or discomfort for the first few days after your operation. Tell your doctor or nurse who will work with you to find the right painkiller for you. After most major chest operations, the side of the chest is kept numb by a local anaesthetic pumped into your spine. This is called an epidural. It is a very effective way of controlling pain. It will stay in for up to a week, even when you are up and about.

You can usually go home about a week or 2 after your surgery. Your stitches will come out about 2 weeks after your operation. You may have this done at the hospital or at your GP’s surgery.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating mesothelioma section.

 

 

The first few days after the operation

After the operation you will be looked after in a high dependency or intensive care unit. You will have a few tubes in place when you wake up. Depending on the type of operation you have had, you may have

  • A drip (intravenous infusion) to give you liquid
  • Drainage tubes from your chest to stop fluid collecting there
  • A tube down your nose and into your stomach to stop you feeling sick (nasogastric tube)
  • An oxygen mask
  • A tube into your bladder so you won't have to get up to pass urine and so that your nurse can record your urine output (this helps to show that your kidneys are working properly)
  • A thin tube going into your back to give painkillers (epidural catheter)

The drip will be taken out as soon as you can start eating and drinking again. After surgery for pleural mesothelioma, this is usually the day after the operation.

After surgery for abdominal mesothelioma, it may be longer before you can eat or drink. Your doctor will listen to your abdomen with a stethoscope. As soon as the doctor can hear your bowel working again, you will be able to start taking sips of water. Gradually you will work up to eating and drinking normally.

The drainage tubes usually stay in as long as they carry on draining fluid. This could be more than a week. If you have had just the pleura removed, you will have one or two tubes called chest drains coming out of your chest on the side where you have had your surgery. These are attached to glass bottles, which are attached to a suction machine. The gentle suction helps your lung on that side to re-inflate after collapsing during the operation. Sometimes, the drains may just be connected to a drainage bag.

The nurses will help you to get up and move around gently as soon as possible. Even when you are still in bed, they will help you to do deep breathing and leg exercises. This helps you to get better and makes complications such as chest infections or blood clots much less likely.

 

Painkillers

You will almost certainly have some pain or discomfort for the first few days after your operation. But pain can usually be well controlled. There are many different types of painkiller. If you are in pain, it is important you tell the nurse or doctor as soon as possible. With your help, they can find the right type and dose of painkiller for you. There is information about different types of painkillers in our pain control section.

After most major chest operations, the side of the chest is kept numb by a local anaesthetic given slowly and continuously through a small tube into the fluid around your spine. This is called an epidural. It is a very effective way of controlling pain. The tube that carries the anaesthetic is put in while you are still asleep in the operating theatre. It will stay in for up to a week, even when you are up and about. There is more information on epidurals in our pain control section.

After your epidural has been removed, you may still need painkillers to keep you comfortable. Painkillers work best when you take them regularly. It is important for you to be comfortable so that you can breathe deeply, cough easily, and move around as freely as possible. All these activities will help to stop a chest infection or blood clot developing.

Pain can sometimes be a long term problem following this type of operation but there are effective medicines you can have. Pain may start a few weeks or months after the operation. This is usually because nerve endings have been damaged during the operation. If you have any pain after your operation, do go and see your doctor to find out what is causing it. If your doctor can't sort it out right away, they can refer you to specialist doctors in a pain clinic.

After surgery for mesothelioma, many people find that they can carry on with activities and pastimes but cannot go back to full time work. In this situation, you may be able to get disability living allowance or attendance allowance.

 

Going home

You can usually go home about a week after removal of the pleura (pleurectomy) and about 2 weeks or so after removal of the pleura and lung (extrapleural pneumonectomy - EPP).

Your stitches will need to come out about 2 weeks after your operation. You may be asked to go back to the hospital or to go to your GP surgery to have this done. You will be given an outpatient appointment before you leave the hospital. Depending on the operation you have had, once you have recovered, your surgeon may refer you to a cancer specialist to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Remember - if you have any worries or symptoms before your outpatient appointment, contact your doctor or the hospital ward. You don't have to wait until your first outpatient appointment and can always contact the hospital team earlier if you need to.

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Updated: 24 November 2015