You can help ensure that your cancer surgery and recovery go smoothly and that you have the best outcome possible by preparing yourself ahead of time. Here are a few tips to prepare you for cancer surgery, and help you recover more quickly:
Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about your scheduled surgery ahead of time. Ask your medical team to explain your surgery and ask them to refer you to additional resources (such as journal articles and online material). Make sure all your questions are answered.
Ask about your choices for anesthesia. Options for anesthesia include local, regional, and general and, depending on the type, can be administered through IV or injection or can be inhaled. Find out which options are appropriated for your surgery and how anesthesia may affect you.
Be prepared to manage pain after surgery. You may experience discomfort after surgery, but there are ways to manage the pain. Ask your doctor about pain medications as well as other methods to ease discomfort; relaxation techniques, heat or cold therapy, and message are a few examples.
Reduce risk of infection. There is a risk of infection in hospitals (MRSA, a form of staph, for example). You can lower your risk by making sure you healthcare team washes and sanitizes their hands before treating you and by watching for signs of infection such as fever, chills, and weakness. Ask your doctor about other symptoms of infection.
Learn about your risk for blood clots. Surgery may put you at a higher risk of potentially life-threatening blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Risk increase with age, smoking, being overweight, and a history of blood clots or cancer. Some medication also increases risk of clotting, so be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you are taking.
Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions. It’s important that your healthcare team is aware of any health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or lung conditions, as well as food and drug allergies.
Discuss all medications you are currently taking. Some medications, both prescription and over the counter, can put you at risk for complications during surgery. Your doctor can tell you which drugs you may need to stop taking before surgery.
Tell your doctor if you take supplements. Even natural supplements (such as vitamins and herbs) can be associated with a risk of surgical complications. Discuss all supplement use with your doctor before surgery. He or she can advise you on supplements to avoid around the time of surgery.
Find out if you need to donate blood. If there’s chance that you’ll need a transfusion during surgery, your doctor may suggest that you donate blood prior to the procedure. Blood must be donated at least four weeks before surgery.
Plan care after surgery. You may need assistance once you return home. Ask family and friends to help and prepare your home by stocking up on groceries and necessary personal items. Have bandages and other supplies on hand to care for surgical wounds.
Arrive for surgery with an empty stomach. Anesthesia can cause vomiting and interfere with normal reflexes that keep you from inhaling stomach contents, which creates a risk of choking and other complications. You doctor will tell you when before surgery you should stop eating and drinking.
Cut back on alcohol. Alcohol can cause serious complications during surgery, including increased bleeding and damage to the liver. Avoid alcohol before surgery or ask your doctor what amount you can safely consume.
Stop smoking. People who smoke have an increased risk of infection and other surgical complications. If you smoke and are planning to have surgery, it’s a good time to quit.