For some types of bowel surgery, you may need to follow a special diet or take some medicine, called a laxative. This is to empty your bowels before your surgery. For example, you may need to take a laxative for a few days before the operation. You will also be asked to not eat or drink for a few hours before the operation. Your doctor or nurse will advise you about this.
Before the operation, you will usually be given antibiotics to prevent infection. You may have them as an injection or tablets.
You will meet a member of the surgical team to discuss the operation. If you are going to have a stoma after the operation, you will also meet a stoma care nurse who will explain what is involved.
This is a good time to share any questions or concerns you have about the operation. If you live alone, or care for someone else, you may need help when you go home after surgery. Tell a nurse as soon as possible so they can help to make arrangements for you.
Some hospitals follow an enhanced recovery programme, which aims to reduce the time you spend in hospital and speed up your recovery. You will also be more involved in your own care. For example, you will be given information about diet and exercise before surgery. You may also be given nutritional supplement drinks.
Your hospital team will make any arrangements needed for you to go home. Your doctor will tell you if an enhanced recovery programme is suitable for you, and if it is available.
You will usually go into hospital on the morning of the operation. You will be given elastic stockings (TED stockings) to wear during the operation and for some time afterwards. This is to prevent blood clots in your legs.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our bowel cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
R Glynne-Jones, PJ Nilson, C Aschele et al. ESMO-ESSO-ESTRO Clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up for anal cancer. July 2014. European Society of Medical Oncology. Available from www.esmo.org/Guidelines/Gastrointestinal-Cancers/Anal-Cancer (accessed October 2019).
National Institute for Health and Excellence (NICE). Colorectal cancer: diagnosis and management clinical guidelines. Updated December 2014. Available from www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg131 (accessed October 2019).
Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain & Ireland (ACPGBI). Volume 19. Issue S1. Guidelines for the management of cancer of the colon, rectum and anus. 2017. Available from www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/14631318/19/S1 (accessed October 2019).
BMJ. Best practice colorectal cancer. Updated 2018. Available from www.bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-gb/258 (accessed October 2019).
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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