Before surgery for bowel cancer

Before surgery, someone from your surgical team will talk to you about your operation. They will explain the operation and what to expect. There are some things that can help you prepare for bowel cancer surgery.

Giving up smoking

If you smoke, try to give up or cut down before your operation. This will help reduce your risk of chest problems, such as a chest infection. It will also help your wound to heal after the operation. Your GP can give you advice and support to help you give up smoking. You may find it helpful to read our information about giving up smoking.

Your diet before surgery

For some types of bowel surgery, you may need to follow a special diet or take some medicine to empty your bowels beforehand. 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 period of time on the day of the operation. Your doctor or nurse will advise you about this.

If you need a stoma

If you are going to have a stoma after the operation, you will 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 think you may need help when you go home after surgery, for example because you live alone or care for someone else, tell your nurse as soon as possible. It will help them to make arrangements in plenty of time.

Enhanced Recovery Programmes

Some hospitals follow an enhanced recovery programme, which aims to reduce the time you spend in hospital and speed up your recovery. It also involves you more in your own care. For example, you will be given information about diet and exercise before surgery. You may be given supplement drinks to take too.

Any arrangements needed for you to go home will also be organised for you. Your doctor will tell you if an enhanced recovery programme is suitable for you and if it is available.

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