Preparing for eye cancer surgery

The basic procedure before your operation is the same whether you are having:

  • just the tumour removed
  • part of the eye removed, for example an iridectomy
  • the whole eye removed

Tests to check you are fit for surgery

You have tests before your operation to check:

  • your fitness for an anaesthetic, if you need one
  • that you’ll make a good recovery from surgery

You might have some or all of the following tests:

  • blood tests to check your general health and how well your kidneys 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)

Your eye specialist may do another eye examination using an ophthalmoscope. 

Pre assessment clinic

Before your surgery you have an appointment at the hospital pre assessment clinic.

Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation.

In some hospitals, you may only meet the pre-assessment nurses. If you have specific questions to ask the treatment team, do let them know before your appointment so that someone is available to answer them.

It sometimes 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.

At the hospital you might meet:

The eye surgeon

A member of the surgical team will tell you about:

  • the operation you are going to have
  • the benefits of having surgery
  • the possible risks
  • what to expect afterwards

The anaesthetist

The anaesthetist gives you the anaesthetic and looks after you during the operation. They make sure you’re fit enough for the surgery.

The nurse 

The nurse checks your:

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

The clinical nurse specialist

The nurse specialist checks what help and support you have to see what you will need when you go home. They are your point of contact and care for you throughout your treatment.

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.

The evening before

You might go into hospital the evening before or the morning of your surgery.

Your nurse might give you a carbohydrate-rich drink to have the evening before the operation. You might also have it the following morning. The drink gives you energy and can speed up your recovery.

When you're in hospital your nurse will check your:

  • blood pressure
  • pulse
  • temperature
  • breathing rate

You might have fluids through a drip (intravenous infusion) into your arm before your surgery. This is usually if you have been finding it difficult to drink.

Your feelings about surgery

It’s natural to feel frightened about having eye surgery. You will be asleep during your operation and will not be aware of anything.

You may worry about what your eyesight will be like after the operation. Your surgeon will discuss all these things with you before you have your operation.

Ask if you want more time with your surgeon or specialist nurse to discuss things. They will be happy to answer your questions. It is important that you feel as confident as possible about your operation.

Finding out what happens during the surgery can help.

Last reviewed: 
08 Oct 2021
Next review due: 
08 Oct 2024
  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th edition)
    L. Dougherty and S. Lister
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

  • Uveal Melanoma Guidelines
    Melanoma Focus, January 2015

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