Before your operation for salivary gland cancer
This page tells you what to expect before you have an operation for salivary gland cancer. You can find information below about
Before your operation
When you go into hospital for your operation, you will see members of the surgical team. Your surgeon, anaesthetist, physiotherapist, nurse and dietician will discuss the operation with you. Your surgeon will explain the operation. They will tell you what to expect when you come round from the anaesthetic.
A physiotherapist will teach you breathing and leg exercises. It is very important that you do these exercises because they will help you to get better more quickly.
It is important to ask as many questions, as you need to. It may help to make a list of questions before you go into hospital to have your surgery.
You will also have tests before your operation to check your general health. These help to make sure you are fit enough to make a good recovery from your surgery.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating salivary gland cancer section.
Most people are given a date for their surgery and then have to wait a couple of weeks. This can be a difficult time. But it does give you time to prepare yourself. You will also 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 prepare and recover. So don’t worry about asking your doctors and nurses lots of questions.
Most people go into hospital the day before their operation. You can meet the people who are going to care for you and sign the consent form if you haven’t already done so. You may also have some tests at that time to check your general health.
Before most salivary gland cancer surgery you will need
- Blood tests to check your general health and find out your blood type
- A chest X-ray or CT scan to check your lungs are healthy
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart is healthy
- To learn breathing and leg exercises
- A detailed explanation of what to expect
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. A physiotherapist will teach you breathing and leg exercises. It is very important to do these exercises as they 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 will help to stop blood clots forming in your legs. Both these complications of surgery can happen because you are not moving 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.
Below is a short video showing breathing and circulation exercises after surgery. Click on the arrow to watch it.
View a transcript of the video showing breathing and circulation exercises after surgery (opens in new window)
When you go into hospital for your operation, your surgeon or surgeons, anaesthetist, physiotherapist, speech therapist, nurse and dietician will come to talk to you about what will happen. Your surgeon will fully explain the operation and tell you what to expect when you come round from the anaesthetic.
Before your surgery you will need to stop eating for about 6 hours and stop drinking for about 2 hours beforehand.
Just before the operation, you will need to
- Change into a gown
- Take off any jewellery and make up, including nail varnish
- Take out contact lenses and false teeth
Lastly, if you have body hair on your neck, chest or face, you may need a shave before your operation. This can reduce the risk of wound infection after your operation. You may have your shave on the ward or in the operating theatre while you are under anaesthetic.
If you smoke, your doctor will encourage you to stop. Giving up smoking can be very difficult, especially if you have smoked for a long time. But it will help you recover from treatment faster and help to prevent further cancers. Stopping smoking also helps to lower the risk of a chest infection and wound infection after surgery. There is information about how to stop smoking on our News & Resources website.
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team