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Cancer Surgery

Surgery is often used as a treatment for cancer. It may be done as a first-line treatment, or your doctor may recommend surgery after chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy has reduced the size of any operable tumors.

Your Surgery

The hospital will recommend a pre-operative visit a few days before surgery, where they will help you fill out necessary forms and conduct tests. This pre-operative visit is a good time to make sure the hospital knows of any special needs you have, such as dietary restrictions and allergies. You may meet the anesthesiologist who will work you with and the doctor to determine the right way to stop unnecessary pain during the operation.

Your doctor will have a set of instructions for you to follow before surgery, as well as after you are discharged from the hospital. Be sure to follow them carefully. These may include restrictions in the following areas:

  • Food/water intake after midnight the night before surgery
  • When to take your prescribed medicines
  • How much alcohol you may consume
  • Use of aspirin or blood thinners
Visit our Cancer Surgery FAQs for a list of questions you may wish to discuss with your doctor before surgery.

What to Bring

When you return for your surgery, we suggest you bring a small bag containing comfortable bedclothes, including a robe, pajamas or nightgown, and slippers. You might wish to bring in your own books or magazines for entertainment. The most important item to bring is a list of your medications and nutritional supplements. Be sure to include the correct name, dosage and frequency. Please include any over-the- counter medications and herbs you take as well. Also remember to bring your reading glasses in a case labeled with your name, important phone contacts and your insurance card.

Surgery-Related Pain

Before your surgery, make sure you understand from your doctors and nurses any pain or discomfort that the surgery may cause. To minimize pain related to surgery, you may be given pain medication just prior to your surgery, as well after your operation. This pain relief may be local, to block the nerves that transmit pain near the site of the operation, or systemic, affecting your whole body.

Let your healthcare team know if you are experiencing pain so that your doctor may prescribe appropriate pain-relieving medications as needed. Don’t worry about being a bother! It is harder to ease pain after it has taken hold, so speak up right away if you start to feel any discomfort.