What happens before surgery?

Your operation will be planned carefully. Before surgery, you will have a clinic appointment to check your general health and make sure you are fit enough to have the operation. You will have blood tests and may have a chest x-ray or a test to check your heart.

You may see the surgeon and anaesthetist who will be looking after you. This is a good time to ask any questions you have about the operation and to make sure you understand what is involved. You will need to sign a consent form agreeing to have the operation.

You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours before the operation. On the day of surgery, the nurses will help you get ready. You may need to have a shower or bath and to shave your body hair in the area being operated on. The nurse may give you a pair of compression stockings to wear during and after the surgery. This is to help prevent blood clots in your legs.

Planning your operation

Your operation will be carefully planned. You can read more specific information in the treating section of the cancer type you have.

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 have the operation. You will probably have a hospital appointment before your operation to have some tests. This is known as a pre-assessment clinic.

Pre-assessment clinic

You will usually see a nurse, and you may also see an anaesthetist.

The nurse will ask about your medical history and do simple checks, such as your blood pressure, temperature, and weight.

You may have some of the following tests:

  • blood tests
  • a chest x-ray to check your lungs
  • an electrocardiogram (ECG), to check the rhythm and rate of your heart.

Some people may have other tests as well as the ones listed here.

It is important 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

Before any operation, you will 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 is essential. It is 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 getting a blood clot in the leg. Compression stockings (also known as anti-embolic stockings) help to reduce this risk. Your doctors and nurses may ask you to wear a pair of compression stockings during your operation and for a short time afterwards. A nurse will assess your individual risk and take your measurements. They will show you how to put the stockings on properly.

Back to Surgery explained

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.

What happens after surgery?

You’ll be monitored very closely after your operation. You will be very tired so it’s important to rest and look after yourself.

Follow-up care after surgery

You will have follow-up appointments after your surgery to check on your recovery and talk about any concerns.