Preparing for surgery

Before your breast surgery you have tests to check your fitness. You will also meet members of your treatment team. You usually go into hospital on the morning of your operation.

Tests to check you are fit for surgery

You have tests before your operation to check:

  • your fitness for a general anaesthetic
  • that you'll make a good recovery from surgery

Tests might include:

  • blood tests to check your general health and how well your kidneys and liver are working
  • an ECG to check that your heart is healthy
  • breathing tests (called lung function tests)
  • an echocardiogram (a painless test of your heart using sound waves)
  • a chest x-ray to check that your lungs are healthy
  • a test to check your heart and lung function when you're resting and exercising (called a cardio pulmonary exercise test)

Pre assessment clinic

Your pre assessment clinic appointment prepares you for your operation. You have it about a week or so before surgery.

You meet members of your treatment team and you can sign the consent form to agree to the operation.

Ask lots of questions. It helps to write down all your questions beforehand to take with you. The more you know about what is going to happen, the less frightening it will seem.

You can ask more questions when you go into hospital so don’t worry if you forget to ask some.

Who you might meet before your operation

Nurse or healthcare assistant

At the pre assessment clinic a nurse or health care assistant checks your:

•    general health
•    weight
•    blood pressure
•    pulse
•    temperature

The nurse asks you questions to check your fitness for the operation. They can organise any further tests you might need.

They ask about any medicines you are taking and give you information about what to expect when you come into hospital for the operation.

They will let you know if you need to stop taking certain medicines before your operation. Tell them if you usually take medicines to thin your blood or have other medical conditions, such as diabetes.

They may give you a leaflet to teach you leg and breathing exercises to do after your operation to help with recovery.

Specialist breast cancer nurse

You may also see your specialist breast nurse. They can check what help and support you have to see what you will need when you go home. They are usually your main point of contact and care for you throughout your treatment.

Your breast care nurse or a physiotherapist will talk to you about arm exercises that you need to do after your operation. This helps with your recovery.

The breast surgeon

Your breast surgeon or a member of their team will tell you about:

•    the operation you are going to have, and where the scars will be 
•    the benefits of having surgery
•    the possible risks
•    what to expect afterwards

The anaesthetist

The anaesthetist gives you the anaesthetic and they look after you during the operation. The anaesthetic is the medicine that keeps you asleep during your operation. They make sure you’re fit enough for the surgery.

Learning breathing and leg exercises

Breathing exercises help to stop you from getting a chest infection. If you smoke, it helps if you can stop at least a few weeks before your operation.

Leg exercises help to stop blood clots forming in your legs. You might also have medicines to stop the blood from clotting. You have them as small injections under the skin.

You start the injections before your operation. You might also wear compression stockings and pumps on your calves or feet to help the circulation.

Your nurse and physiotherapist will get you up out of bed quite quickly after your surgery. This is to help prevent chest infections and blood clots forming.

This 3-minute video shows you how to do the breathing and leg exercises.