Preparing for surgery for nasopharyngeal cancer

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 at this appointment and you can sign the consent form to agree to the operation.

Your doctor or nurse might talk to you about the Enhanced Recovery Programme at your hospital. This is a programme of care that helps people recover more quickly after an operation.

Ask lots of questions during your appointment. 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

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.

Nurse or health care assistant

They will check your:

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

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

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

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.

The speech therapist

If your operation might cause problems with speech, a speech therapist will talk to you about communicating after your surgery.

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.

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.

Last reviewed: 
19 Feb 2021
Next review due: 
19 Feb 2024
  • Perioperative care in adults
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2020

  • Enhanced recovery programmes in head and neck surgery: systematic review
    M Bannister and KW Ah-See
    The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 2015. Volume 129, Issue 5, Pages 416-420

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (10th edition)
    S Lister, J Hofland and H Grafton
    Wiley Blackwell, 2020

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