What to expect after surgery for kidney cancer
After surgery, you will usually be in hospital for 2–7 days. Once you are home, you will need to take some precautions while you recover. Your recovery time will depend on your age, general health and the type of surgery that you had.
Tubes and dripsWhile in hospital, you will be given fluids and medicines via a tube inserted into a vein (intravenous drip). You will also have other temporary tubes to drain waste fluid away from the operation site.
For a few days, you will most likely have a thin tube inserted in your bladder that is attached to a bag to collect urine. This is called a urinary catheter. Knowing how much urine you are passing helps hospital staff monitor how the remaining kidney is working (functioning). When the catheter is removed, you will be able to urinate normally again.
Pain reliefYou will have some pain in the areas where the cuts in the skin were made and where the kidney (or part of the kidney) was removed.
If you are in pain, ask for medicine to help control it. You might have an anaesthetic injected into the area around your spine (epidural), painkillers injected into a vein or muscle, or a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) system. The PCA system delivers a measured dose of pain medicine when you push a button.
Blood clotsYou will usually have to wear compression stockings to help the blood in your legs circulate and prevent blood clots developing.
Moving aroundYour health care team will probably encourage you to walk the day after the surgery.
You may see a physiotherapist while you are in hospital. They can explain the safest way to move and show you exercises to do while you are recovering. These might include breathing or coughing exercises that can help you avoid developing a chest infection.
It will be some weeks before you can lift heavy things, reach high with your arms or drive. Ask your doctor how long you should wait before attempting any of these activities or returning to work.
Returning homeWhen you get home, you will need to take things easy and only do what is comfortable. Let your family and friends know that you need to rest a lot and might need some help around the house. Try to eat a balanced diet (including proteins such as lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt, nuts, seeds and legumes or beans) to help your body recover from surgery.
Check-upsYou will need to visit the hospital for a check-up a few weeks after you’ve returned home.
A/Prof Daniel Moon, Urologic Surgeon, Australian Urology Associates, and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Ian Basey, Consumer; Gregory Bock, Urology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, North Metropolitan Health Service, WA; Tina Forshaw, Advanced Practice Nurse Urology, Canberra Health Services, ACT; Dr Suki Gill, Radiation Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Karen Walsh, Nurse Practitioner, Urology Services, St Vincents Private Hospital Northside, QLD; Dr Alison Zhang, Medical Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Macquarie University Hospital, NSW.
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