Taking care of yourself at home after surgery
Your recovery time will depend on the type of surgery you had, your general health, and your support at home. If you don’t have support from family, friends or neighbours, ask a social worker if it’s possible to get help at home. In most cases, you will be able to fully return to your usual activities after 4–8 weeks.
RestTake things easy and do only what is comfortable. You may like to try meditation or some relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety or tension.
WorkDepending on the nature of your work, you will probably need several weeks off work.
LiftingAvoid heavy lifting or heavy work (e.g. gardening) for at least four weeks. Use a clothes horse or dryer until it’s comfortable to hang out your washing on a line.
DrivingYou will most likely need to avoid driving for a few weeks after the surgery. Check with your car insurer for any conditions regarding major surgery and driving.
Bowel problemsYou may have constipation after the surgery and when you are taking strong painkillers. It is important to avoid straining when passing a bowel motion, so your doctor may advise you to take laxatives and drink plenty of fluids.
NutritionTo help your body recover from surgery, focus on eating a balanced diet (including proteins such as lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt, nuts, seeds and legumes/beans).
SexSexual intercourse should be avoided for about six weeks after the operation to give your wounds time to heal. Ask your doctor when you can have sexual intercourse again, and explore other ways you and your partner can be intimate, such as massage.
ExerciseYour health care team will probably encourage you to start walking the day after the surgery. Exercise may help manage some side effects and speed up a return to usual activities. Start with a short walk and go a little further each day. Because of the risk of infection, avoid swimming for 4–6 weeks after surgery.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists, TAS; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Sonja Kingston, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Judy Kirk, Head, Familial Cancer Service, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Support Team, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Emily Stevens, Gynaecology Oncology Nurse Coordinator, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Amy Vassallo, Fussell Family Foundation Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Merran Williams, Consumer.
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