On the hospital ward, nurses and doctors will check you regularly. They will usually take your blood pressure, pulse and temperature, look at your wound and change the dressing as needed. They will also check your pain is under control and give you pain relief if required. You will be able to have visitors during the hospital’s visiting hours.
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While you are recovering on the ward, your health care team will check your progress and help you with the following:
You may have some pain and discomfort for several days after surgery, but you will be given pain-relieving medicines to manage this. Let your doctor or nurse know if you are in pain so they can adjust your medicines to make you as comfortable as possible.
Do not wait until the pain is severe. Pain relief options may include:
- an injection or ongoing infusion of local anaesthetic into the wound, near the spinal column (epidural), or near a nerve to block pain to a specific area of the body (nerve block)
- an injection of strong pain medicine into a muscle or under the skin
- a PCA (patient-controlled analgesia) device, which is a pump that is connected to a drip or small plastic tube that allows you to receive a set dose of medicine when you press a button
- slow-acting pills or tablets which you take regularly, and fast-acting pills or tablets you can ask for if in pain.
When you return from theatre, you may be wearing compression stockings, pneumatic cuffs and/or have an injection of medicine to prevent blood clots forming in the deep veins of your legs or pelvis (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). Some people may have to wear the stockings and have the injections for a couple of weeks after the surgery.
Your health care team will encourage you to walk the day after the surgery. Moving around as much as possible will speed up your recovery and reduce the chance of blood clots or infections. The nurses or a physiotherapist will give you advice about this.
Most people can start eating and drinking either the same day or the day after surgery. Some people begin by drinking broth and soup before progressing to plain foods and small meals, while others receive nutrition through a drip or a feeding tube for a short while rather than eating. If the cancer and surgery affect your digestive system (e.g. mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel), you will need to follow the dietitian’s advice about eating and drinking.
For more on this, see Nutrition and cancer.
The timing of your first shower depends on how you are feeling and the type of surgery that you have had – some people shower the same day or the next day if they are up to it. The nurses will probably encourage you to shower as soon as possible because it is a good reason to get out of bed. They can help you if you need to remove dressings or cover them to keep them from getting wet. If you can’t get up and move, the nurses will help you bathe in bed.
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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