Preparing for ovarian cancer surgery

Before surgery, you have tests to check your fitness and you meet members of your treatment team. You usually go into hospital on the morning of your operation. Most people are in hospital for between 2 and 4 days. 

Tests to check you are fit for surgery

You have tests before your operation to check:

  • your fitness for a general anaesthetic
  • that you'll make a good recovery from surgery

Tests might include:

  • 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)
  • a chest x-ray to check that your lungs are healthy
  • a test to check your heart and lung function when you're resting and exercising (called a cardio pulmonary exercise test)

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. You might also 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, or think of more questions when you get home.

At the hospital you might meet:

Nurse or healthcare assistant 

At the pre assessment clinic a nurse or health care assistant checks your:

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

The nurse asks you questions to check your fitness for the operation. They can organise any further tests you might need. They ask about any medicines you are taking and give you information about what to expect when you come into hospital for the operation.

They may give you a leaflet to teach you leg and breathing exercises to do after your operation to help with recovery.

Specialist cancer nurse

You may also see your specialist cancer nurse. They can check what help and support you have to see what you will need when you go home. They are usually your main point of contact, and care for you throughout your treatment.

The surgeon/doctor (gynaecological oncologist)

Your gynaecological oncologist or a member of their 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. If you're a smoker, they will advise you to stop smoking before your operation.

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.

The evening before

You might go into hospital the evening before or the morning of your surgery.

Your nurse might give you a carbohydrate-rich drink to have the evening before the operation. You might also have it the following morning. The drink gives you energy and can speed up your recovery.

When you're in hospital your nurse will check your:

  • blood pressure
  • pulse
  • temperature
  • breathing rate

You might have fluids through a drip (intravenous infusion) into your arm before your surgery. This is usually if you have been finding it difficult to drink.

Last reviewed: 
11 Jan 2022
Next review due: 
11 Jan 2025
  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures, 9th edition
    L Dougherty and S Lister (Editors)
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • Ovarian cancer: recognition and initial management
    National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2011

  • Newly Diagnosed and Relapsed Epithelial Ovarian Carcinoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines
    JA Ledermann and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2013. Volume 24, Supplement 6.

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