Before you have your operation you have some tests and meet your healthcare team. You will go into hospital either on the day of your operation or the night before. You may be ready to go home about a week after open surgery or a few days after keyhole surgery.
Before your surgery, you have tests to make sure you’re fit enough to make a good recovery. These include:
- blood tests to check your general health and kidney function
- a chest x-ray to check your lungs are healthy
- an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart is healthy
If you had some of these tests while your cancer was being diagnosed, you may not have to have them again. Instead, you may have:
- breathing tests (called lung function tests)
- an ECG while you are exercising
Pre assessment clinic
Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation. You may have it about a week or so before surgery.
You meet members of your treatment team at this appointment 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
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 gives you the anaesthetic and looks after you during the operation. They make sure you’re fit enough for the surgery.
Nurse or health care assistant
They will check your:
- general health
- blood pressure
They also check what help and support you have to see what you will need when you go home.
Specialist cancer nurse
Your specialist nurse can talk through your treatment plan and try to answer any questions that you have. They are usually your main point of contact, and care for you throughout your treatment.
The dietitian gives you help and advice about managing your diet. They:
- help you get as well as possible before your operation
- explain how the surgery affects your diet
- give useful tips on how to increase your nutrients and calories
They might give you nutritional supplement drinks to have before surgery.
Some people need a feeding tube in their stomach or small bowel. This makes sure you get the nutrition you need before your surgery.
The physiotherapist assesses how well you can move around. They let the doctors know if there is anything that could affect your recovery.
The physios also teach you leg and breathing exercises to do after your operation to help with recovery. Learning how to do the exercises beforehand makes it easier afterwards.
Learning breathing and leg exercises
Breathing exercises help to stop you from getting a chest infection after surgery. 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 after 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.
Breathing and circulation exercises after surgery
These exercises help prevent you developing a chest infection or blood clots in your legs after surgery. These problems are more likely when you are not moving around as you would normally.
You can do these breathing exercises while sitting up in a chair or in a bed or whilst lying down.
Relax your shoulders and upper chest.
Take a slow, deep, comfortable breath in and hold for a couple of seconds, then slowly breathe out.
Repeat this 3 times.
You can start these breathing exercises as soon as you come round from your anaesthetic.
You should try to do them every hour when awake until you are fully mobile.
If you need to cough, support your wound with your arms, a pillow or a rolled up towel.
If you are struggling to clear any phlegm, try a huff. This is where you breathe out in a short, sharp manner as if you were trying to steam up a mirror.
You should move about as soon as possible after your operation. But while you are not as mobile, try to keep your legs moving to encourage better circulation.
You can do these exercises in a bed or in a chair.
One foot at a time point your toes away from you then pull your toes towards your chin.
Try to do 10 of these on both feet at least 2-3 times an hour.
The next exercise is circling your ankles. One at time circle your ankles, clockwise and then anticlockwise. Repeat this 10 times with each ankle 2-3 times an hour.
Going into hospital
Before you go into hospital it might be worth you sorting out a few things. For example:
- care for children or other loved ones
- care for your pets
- care for your house
- cancelling your milk or newspapers
What to take with you
- nightgowns or pyjamas
- dressing gown
- contact lenses, solution, glasses and a case
- wash bag with soap, a flannel or sponge, toothbrush and toothpaste
- sanitary wear or tampons
- small amount of money
- medicines you normally take
- magazines, books, playing cards
- headphones and music to listen to
- your mobile or a tablet and charger
Family and friends
Your family or friends can go in with you to help you settle in. You’ll need to check the time of your operation and when the visiting times are.
The time it takes to do the operation depends on the type of surgery you have. Most operations take a few hours. The nurse will give you numbers for your family or friends to phone to find out how you are.