- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Recovery after surgery
- Taking care of yourself at home
Taking care of yourself at home
Looking after yourself at home is one of the most important parts of your recovery. Your progress will depend on the type of surgery you have, what support you have at home, your overall fitness and health, and whether you are having other cancer treatments.
When you first get home
A community nurse may visit to check on you and change any dressings, or you might see your GP. 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 can show you how to use this equipment.
Keep in mind that recovery will take time, and try not to expect too much of yourself. Although it’s a good idea to stay active and do gentle exercise while you are recovering, it’s also important to follow your surgeon’s advice about any restrictions.
For more suggestions, see What to expect when you return home.
When to call the doctor or go back to hospital
The wound, pain and scar will take time to settle. Your medical team will tell you what to look out for and when to seek help. As a general guide, 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 surgery
- other symptoms or changes that the surgeon warned you to look out for.
Podcast: How to Help Someone with Cancer
Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and University of Sydney, NSW; Chanelle Curnuck, Dietitian – Dietetics and Nutrition, Sir Charles Gairdner Osborne Park Health Care Group, WA; Department of Anaesthetics, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Feeney, Nurse Unit Manager, Breast, Endocrine and Gynaecology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; John Leung, Consumer; Rohan Miegel, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, University of Queensland and Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Lucy Pollerd, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Suzanne Ryan, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Department of General Surgery, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.