Follow-up care after surgery

Usually a couple of weeks after your operation you see your surgeon. They’ll examine you and check your scar to make sure you’re recovering well.

Before your appointment you may find it helpful to make a list of the questions you want to ask. You may also want a friend or relative to come with you.

During the appointment your surgeon will explain the results of your surgery. They may give you information about the stage of the cancer and will explain if you need further treatment. This is not uncommon. Further treatment can include chemotherapy or radiotherapy or sometimes more surgery. They can also give you advice on any activities you need to be careful with.

Follow up appointments usually take place every few months. Your doctor or nurse will check on your recovery and may run some simple tests such as blood tests. This is a good opportunity to talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you have.

If you develop new symptoms between follow up appointments, contact your nurse or doctor.

What to expect when you see your surgeon

You usually see your surgeon and a specialist nurse a couple of weeks after your operation.

It’s natural to feel anxious before your appointment. Taking a relative or friend with you for support can help. They can also help you to remember what was said afterwards. It’s also a good idea to write a list of your questions and concerns before the appointment.

The surgeon will examine the operation area and the scar to make sure everything is healing well. Depending on the surgery you have, they may check it hasn’t caused problems with how you move that part of your body. Some people may need further help from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist after surgery.

Your surgeon will explain the results of your surgery and of the tissue they removed (pathology). They may tell you about the stage of the cancer and if you need to see a cancer doctor to talk about further treatment. It’s not unusual to need more treatment after surgery. For example some people may have:

  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back (adjuvant treatment)
  • More surgery if there are still cancer cells in the tissue surrounding the cancer (called the margin)
  • Cancer treatments to get rid of or shrink any cancer that wasn’t completely removed.

Depending on your operation your surgeon will give you advice on things like, how soon you can go back to work and when you can drive again. They will also tell you if there are any activities you need to be careful with or give you advice about any effects of the operation on your sex life.

If you don’t need further treatment after surgery you will come back for more follow up appointments. How often this is depends on the type of cancer and your situation.

Your follow-up

Your follow-up will depend on the type of cancer and your situation. You usually have regular check-ups every few months at first, and eventually they may be yearly. Some people have follow-up appointments at a nurse-led clinic or by telephone. They see their specialist if anything needs to be checked further.

At your appointments, your doctor may examine you and you may have some tests, such as blood tests. They will explain if you need any other tests.

Your appointments are a good time for you to talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you have.

You can ask if there are specific symptoms you should look out for and what you can do to help with your recovery. If you notice any new symptoms between appointments, you can contact your doctor or nurse for advice.

Our information on coping explains more about your recovery after treatment.

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