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On the day of surgery

On the day of your breast surgery, there are things you need to do before you go to the theatre for your operation.

Before the operation

On the day of the operation you:

  • stop eating for about 6 hours before your operation, but you can still drink clear fluids (nothing fizzy) up to 2 hours beforehand
  • change into a hospital gown
  • take off jewellery (except for a wedding ring)
  • put on a pair of surgical stockings
  • take off any make up, including nail varnish
  • remove contact lenses if you have them

If you have false teeth you can usually keep them in until you get to the anaesthetic room.

Your surgeon uses a marker pen to draw an outline on your skin to clearly show the area of the operation. The marks may be on your breast and under your arm.

For some types of surgery, you need to shave the skin over the operation area. Or the nurse might shave it for you. They might do this when you’re under anaesthetic in the operating room.

Your nurse might give you a tablet or an injection to help you relax. This will be an hour or so before you go to the operating theatre. This makes your mouth feel dry but you can rinse your mouth with water to keep it moist.

If you've had medicine to help you relax your nurse and a porter take you to theatre on a trolley. You can walk down to the theatre if you haven't had any.

Having an anaesthetic

You have an anaesthetic so that you can’t feel anything during the operation. You have this in the anaesthetic room, next to the operating theatre.

All the doctors and nurses wear theatre gowns, hats and masks. This reduces your chance of getting an infection.

The anaesthetist puts a small tube into a vein in your arm (cannula). You have any fluids and medicines you need through the cannula including the general anaesthetic. This sends you into a deep sleep. When you wake up, the operation will be over.

The anaesthetist might inject an anaesthetic into the area of the surgery so that you don't have any pain there when you wake up.

Waking up after surgery

After the operation, you usually wake up in the recovery room, before moving back to your ward.

Last reviewed: 
16 Apr 2020
Next review due: 
16 Apr 2023
  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures, 9th edition
    L Dougherty and S Lister (Editors)
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015