Before your operation

Before surgery, you have tests to check your fitness and you meet members of your treatment team. You will go into hospital either on the day of your operation or the night before. 

Tests to check you're fit for surgery

You have tests before your operation to check:

  • your fitness for an anaesthetic
  • that you’ll make a good recovery from surgery

Tests might include:

  • chest x-ray
  • blood tests to check your general health and how well your kidneys and liver are working
  • an ECG to check that your heart is healthy
  • breathing tests (called lung function tests)
  • an echocardiogram (a painless test of your heart using sound waves)

Pre assessment clinic

Your pre assessment clinic appointment prepares you for your operation. You have it about a week or so before surgery.

You meet members of your treatment team at this appointment and you can sign the consent form to agree to the operation. 

Your doctor or nurse might talk to you about the Enhanced Recovery Programme at your hospital. This is a programme of care that helps people recover more quickly after a big operation.

Ask lots of questions during your appointment. It helps to write down all your questions beforehand to take with you. The more you know about what is going to happen, the less frightening it will seem. 

You can ask more questions when you go into hospital so don't worry if you forget to ask some. 

Who you might meet before your operation

The surgeon

A member of the surgical team will tell you about:

  • the operation you are going to have
  • the benefits of having surgery
  • the possible risks
  • what to expect afterwards

The anaesthetist

The anaesthetist gives you the anaesthetic and looks after you during the operation. They make sure you’re fit enough for the surgery.

Specialist cancer nurse

Your specialist nurse will check what help and support you have when you go home. They are usually your main point of contact, and care for you throughout your treatment. 

Nurse or healthcare assistant

They wil check you:

  • general health
  • weight
  • blood pressure
  • pulse
  • temperature

Learning breathing and leg exercises

Breathing exercises help to stop you from getting a chest infection after surgery. If you smoke, it helps if you can stop at least a few weeks before your operation.

Leg exercises help to stop blood clots forming in your legs. You might also have medicines to stop the blood from clotting. You have them as small injections under the skin.

You start the injections after your operation. You might also wear compression stockings and pumps on your calves or feet to help the circulation.

Your nurse and physiotherapist will get you up out of bed quite quickly after your surgery. This is to help prevent chest infections and blood clots forming.

This 3-minute video shows you how to do the breathing and leg exercises.

If you smoke, your doctor will ask you to try to stop smoking for at least 4 weeks before surgery. It is very important to stop smoking if you can, although this can be difficult at such a stressful time. Your doctor and nurse can tell you where you can get help and support to stop smoking. By not smoking you reduce your risk of developing complications after surgery. 

Going into hospital

You will probably go into hospital on the day of your operation or the night before. Most people are in hospital for between 5 to 10 days. The length of your stay depends on the type of operation you have and your recovery. 

What to take with you 

Take in:

  • nightgowns or pyjamas
  • underwear
  • dressing gown
  • slippers
  • contact lenses, solution, glasses and a case
  • wash bag - flannel, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap
  • sanitary towels
  • towel
  • small amount of money
  • medicines you normally take
  • magazines, books
  • headphones and music to listen to
  • a tablet or smartphone for web browsing, entertainment and phone calls

Family and friends

Your family and friends can go in with you to help you settle in. You'll need to check the time of your operation and when the visiting times are. 

The time it takes to do the operation depends on the type of surgery you have. Most operations take a few hours. The nurse will give you numbers for your family or friends to phone to find out how you are.

Before you go into hospital

It’s worth sorting out a few things before you go into hospital. These might include:

  • work
  • care for your children or other loved ones
  • care for your pets
  • care for your house
  • cancelling your milk or newspapers

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