How to plan for recovery at home

After you leave hospital, you will need to continue taking care of yourself at home. Be guided by your doctor, but these general suggestions may help.


  • This is the most common side effect.
  • Take pain-relieving medicine as prescribed by your health care team.
  • If your pain isn’t under control, gets worse, or if the medicine causes side effects, talk to your surgeon, the nurse listed on your discharge paperwork, or your GP.
  • If the pain gets significantly worse, consider going to the emergency department.
  • For more on this, see Pain and cancer and listen to our podcast on Managing Cancer Pain.

Wound care

  • Follow any instructions you are given about how to care for the wound.
  • If the wound is left open, clean it with mild soap and warm water and pat it dry. Avoid putting lotions or perfumes on the wound and the area around it.
  • If you have dressings, you might need to keep them dry while you shower.
  • If adhesive strips have been used, they should fall off within a few weeks, or you will be told when to remove them. Removing the strips too soon might cause the wound to open.
  • Your doctor or nurse will remove any stitches or staples during a follow-up appointment.
  • Any bruising around the surgical site will fade over a few weeks. To avoid infection, don’t pick at any scabs around the wound.
  • Take the full course of any prescribed antibiotics to completely kill bacteria and prevent infection.

Eating and drinking

  • Some people feel sick after surgery. When you feel like eating, try basic foods such as rice and toast before going back to your usual diet.
  • Your health care team may instruct you to follow a special diet.
  • Eat fibre and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation, and avoid alcohol, especially if you are taking medicine.
  • Focus on eating a balanced diet (including proteins such as lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt, nuts, seeds and legumes/beans), to help your body recover from surgery.
  • See a dietitian for advice on managing special dietary needs or eating problems.
  • For more on this, see Nutrition and cancer.


  • Unless you’ve been told otherwise, you will be able to shower. Gently wash your body and pat yourself dry. Depending on the type of surgery you had, you may not be able to take a bath for a few weeks after surgery. 
  • Avoid straining when going to the toilet, as this can cause a small tear around the anus (anal fissure) and/or swollen veins (haemorrhoids or piles). 
  • If you are taking strong pain medicine, your treatment team will suggest or prescribe a suitable laxative to prevent constipation. 
  • Some people have trouble controlling their bowel or bladder after some types of surgery. Incontinence is usually temporary. For support, see a continence nurse or call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.

Drains and stomas

  • Some people go home with a temporary drain or tube near the surgical site to collect extra fluid leaving the body.
  • The hospital may organise a community nurse to visit you to empty the drain or tube. More commonly your health care team will show you how to keep the tube clean until your next appointment.
  • Some people go home with a stoma. A stomal therapy nurse will see you after the operation to teach you how to look after the stoma.

Daily activities

  • Check with your surgeon when you can start doing your regular activities and what to avoid – such as heavy lifting, driving or sexual intercourse.
  • Try to do some gentle exercise. This can help reduce tiredness, build up strength, lift mood and speed up a return to usual activities. The right exercise for you depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice.
  • You may need to organise some equipment to help you move safely, such as a walker or shower chair. Try to organise this before surgery so it is ready when you get home. A physiotherapist or occupational therapist will show you how to use this equipment.
  • For more on this see Exercise during cancer treatment.

When to call the doctor or go back to hospital

Contact your doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital emergency department if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • increased bleeding, swelling, redness, pus or drainage, or an unusual smell from the wound or around any tubes, drains or stomas
  • a fever of 38°C or higher
  • chills or shivering
  • swelling in your limbs
  • sudden, severe pain
  • pain or burning when urinating
  • nausea or vomiting for 12 hours or more
  • trouble breathing, walking or doing things you could do before the surgery
  • other symptoms or changes that the surgeon warned you to look out for.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on surgery

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The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2019
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