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:
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.
The nurse checks your:
- general health
- blood pressure
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.
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 hu. 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.
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.