Preparing for surgery

Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation. You’ll meet some of the members of your treatment team at this appointment. You usually have this appointment 1 or 2 weeks before your operation.

Surgery for skin cancer

You usually have your skin cancer operation as a day patient. You might be awake for the surgery and have a medicine to numb the area (local anaesthetic). But for larger operations, you might have a general anaesthetic and be asleep for the operation.

Tests to check you're fit for surgery

You have some tests if you are going to have a general anaesthetic. These check:

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

You might have one or more of the following tests:

  • blood tests to check your general health and how well your kidneys are working
  • an ECG to check your heart is healthy
  • a chest x-ray to check that your lungs are healthy

Pre assessment clinic

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

Your pre-assessment prepares you for your operation. You meet members of your treatment team at this appointment.

The doctor or nurse will tell you what to do on the day of your operation. This includes instructions about when to stop eating and drinking, and whether to stop taking any of your medicines. Do not stop taking your regular medicines unless the doctor tells you to.

Ask lots of questions. It helps to write these down 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 surgery so don’t worry if you forget to ask some.

Before your operation you’ll 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

Your skin cancer surgeon is either a dermatologist (skin specialist) or plastic surgeon. They’ll ask you to sign a consent for to agree to the operation, once they know you understand what’s involved.

The anaesthetist

The anaesthetist gives you the anaesthetic and they look after you during the operation. The anaesthetic is the medicine that keeps you asleep during your operation. They make sure you’re fit enough for the surgery.

The nurse

The nurse checks your:

  • general health
  • weight
  • blood pressure
  • heart rate (pulse)
  • temperature
  • breathing rate (respiration)

The nurse looks after you straight after surgery and until you are ready to go home. They also check what help and support you have. Then they can see what you will need when you go home.

Eating and drinking

Having a general anaesthetic means you have to stop eating and drinking for a certain amount of time before your operation. This is so it’s safe for the anaesthetist to put you to sleep.

You can usually drink clear fluids until 2 hours or so before the surgery.

You usually have to stop eating at least 6 hours before your operation. They may even tell you to not eat anything from the night before your operation.

Follow the instructions given to you by your team of when to stop eating and drinking.
Last reviewed: 
07 Oct 2019
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    W Key and others
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  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th edition)
    VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2018

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