Before your operation
You operation will be carefully planned. There may be more specific information in the section about your cancer type.
Your surgeon and anaesthetist are responsible for your well-being during and after your surgery. They must be sure that you are fit enough to undergo the operation. This means you may have to attend a hospital appointment before your operation to have some tests. This is known as a pre-assessment clinic.
At a pre-assessment clinic you will usually be seen by a nurse and occasionally by an anaesthetist. The nurse will ask you about your medical history and if you have any allergies. They will also check your blood pressure, pulse, height and weight. It’s important that you bring any medicines you are currently taking including herbal medicines or supplements.
You may have some tests done, which usually include the following:
a chest x-ray to check how well your lungs are working
an ECG (electrocardiogram), to check the rhythm and rate of the heart. It’s painless and usually only takes 5-10 minutes.
Some people may have other tests as well. Don’t worry if you have more tests than someone else. This might be because of the type of operation you’re having or because you have other health conditions.
If you aren’t able to have a general anaesthetic, it may still be possible for you to have surgery. Some operations can be done under local anaesthetic or regional anaesthetic (such as an epidural or spinal anaesthetic). With these techniques you’ll be awake during the operation but won’t feel any pain.
It’s important that you understand everything about the operation you are having. You should be given an opportunity to discuss the operation with your surgeon. This might happen at the pre-assessment clinic. You will need to sign a consent form to say that you agree to the operation. No operation will be done without your consent.
Preparation for an operation
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Before any operation you’ll be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours. This is known as being ’nil-by-mouth’.
You may also need to bathe and shave body hair from the area of the operation. The nurse looking after you will give you more details about this. Body hair is only shaved if it’s essential. It’s done using a disposable razor and the hair will begin to grow back after the operation.
Having an operation can put you at risk of developing a blood clot in the leg. Compression stockings (also known as anti-embolic stockings) help to reduce this risk. You might be asked to wear a pair of compression stockings during your operation and for a short period afterwards. A nurse will assess your individual risk and take your measurements. You will then be shown how to put the stockings on properly.