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Preparing for surgery

Find out about what happens before lung cancer surgery, the people you’ll meet, and the exercises you need to do.

Tests to check you're fit for surgery

You have tests before your operation to check:

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

You might not need all of these tests if you had them when you were diagnosed.

Tests might include:

  • chest x-ray
  • blood tests to check your general health and how well your kidneys are working
  • an ECG to check your that heart is healthy
  • breathing tests (called lung function tests)
  • an echocardiogram (a painless test of your heart using sound waves)

Pre assessment clinic

One or two weeks before your surgery you have an appointment at the hospital pre assessment clinic.

Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation.

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 some. At the hospital you might meet:

The 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.

Your nurse

The nurse checks your:

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

The clinical nurse specialist

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

Helping you recover

Your doctor and nurses might tell you about the enhanced recovery programme. This is a way of caring before, during and after your surgery to help you recover more quickly after a big operation. It includes advising you about:

  • being physically active
  • stopping smoking
  • drinking less alcohol
  • how to eat well before your 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 clots forming in your legs. You might also have medicines to stop the blood from clotting. You have them as small injections just under the skin.

You start the injections just before your operation. You might also wear compression stockings.

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

If you smoke, your doctor will ask you to try to stop smoking for at least 4 weeks before surgery. It is very important to stop smoking if you can, although this can be difficult at such a stressful time. Your doctor and nurse can tell you where you can get help and support to stop smoking. By not smoking you reduce your risk of developing complications after surgery. 

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 and breathing rate. You might have fluids through a drip (intravenous infusion) into your arm before your surgery if you have recently been finding eating and drinking difficult.

You have a bath or shower in an antiseptic solution the night before your operation to reduce the risk of infection. Your nurse gives you the antiseptic solution.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.