Planning and preparation
Although each person’s situation is different, here is a general overview of what may happen before surgery. Procedures vary between hospitals and according to whether you have surgery as an inpatient or outpatient.
Learn more about:
- Preoperative assessment
- Enhanced recovery after surgery programs
- Understanding the risks
- Informed consent
- Preparing for surgery
Your doctor will ask you to complete a questionnaire about your medical history, including any allergies and any medicines you take.
Depending on the surgery you are having and your general health, you may have to attend a pre-admission clinic a few weeks before the surgery. This is so your medical team can check your fitness for surgery and recommend any tests or other things you need to do to prepare for surgery and ensure the best outcomes.
Tell the doctor if you are taking over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs or other supplements, as these could affect the surgery and your recovery. For example, they may increase the risk of bleeding during surgery or affect the way pain medicines work.
The health professionals you see at the clinic will vary depending on the type of cancer and surgery, but they could include:
- the surgeon or a resident medical officer or registrar
- the anaesthetist or another member of the anaesthesia team, such as a specialist nurse or registrar
- a physiotherapist to show you exercises to do before surgery to improve the chances of a smooth recovery
- other specialists depending on your medical history and the type of surgery, e.g. you may see a heart specialist.
You may also have blood tests (including compatibility testing in case you need a blood transfusion), urine tests, heart monitoring tests (ECG) and a chest x-ray, and imaging tests such as CT, MRI or PET scans. You probably won’t need to have all of these tests and scans.
You will be told whether you will have surgery as an inpatient or outpatient, what to take to hospital and other useful information (see Preparing for surgery). Your legs may be measured for stockings to help reduce the chance of developing a blood clot in your veins (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). You might wear these during surgery and for a short time afterwards.
You will be given referrals to any support services you need after surgery, such as a dietitian or social worker.
If you are having minor surgery, you may not need to attend a pre-admission clinic. Your doctor will discuss the surgery and how to prepare at one of your usual appointments, and you will usually receive admission instructions from the hospital.
If you are a smoker, you will be encouraged to stop smoking before surgery. Continuing to smoke can increase the risk of complications and delay your healing and recovery time. Quitting smoking can be difficult – for support, talk to your doctor, call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit quitnow.gov.au.
Many hospitals in Australia have programs in place to reduce the stress of surgery and improve your recovery. These are called enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) or fast track surgical (FTS) programs.
These programs encourage you to play an active part in your care through pre-admission counselling and education about pain, diet and exercise, so you know what to expect each day after the surgery.
Prof Andrew Spillane, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute of Australia, and Professor of Surgical Oncology, The University of Sydney Northern Clinical School, NSW; Lynne Hendrick, Consumer; Judy Holland, Physiotherapist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Kara Hutchinson, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof Stephan Schug, Director of Pain Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, and Chair of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, The University of Western Australia Medical School, WA; Dr Emma Secomb, Specialist Surgeon, Hinterland Surgical Centre, QLD. We would like to thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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