Getting ready for surgery

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Waiting for surgery 

Waiting for surgery can be a very anxious time. There is lots of support available to you if you want to talk to someone about how you feel. These supports include our Support Line, Daffodil Centres and local cancer support centres which provide free counselling to cancer patients and their families. Read about getting emotional support here

While you’re waiting for surgery, there are some things you can do to prepare for your treatment. This could include stopping smoking, eating well, taking exercise to get a bit fitter or trying to lose any extra weight. This can also help you to feel more in control and less anxious. Speak to your medical team for advice and support about any changes you want to make. What is safe and healthy for you will depend on your general health and your cancer type. 

Understanding your surgery

Your medical team is in the best position to answer any queries you have about your surgery, as they will know you and your individual case. You can also talk to our cancer nurses by visiting a Daffodil Centre or calling our Support Line on 1800 200 700. 

Tests before surgery

To make sure you are fit for surgery you will have some extra tests.

These might include:

  • Blood tests 
  • A chest X-ray
  • Heart tests (ECG and echocardiogram)
  • Breathing tests


Giving up smoking as soon as possible before your operation will improve your breathing and reduce the risk of a chest infection after surgery. Some hospitals have smoking cessation services to help you. You can ask your doctor for a referral. You can also contact the HSE Quit Team for support - CallSave 1800 201 203, visit or Freetext QUIT to 50100.

Be prepared for side-effects

It’s important to know how the surgery might affect you afterwards. Depending on where you’re having surgery you might have short-term, long-term or permanent changes. For example, changes to how you look, changes to your sex life or to how you eat or go to the toilet. Ask your consultant about this. 

Risks of surgery

Most people come through their surgery without serious problems, but surgery always involves some potential risks. Possible risks include:

  • Bleeding during or after surgery 
  • Wound/chest infection
  • Blood clots (also known as DVT or deep vein thrombosis)

Your surgeon will talk to you about any possible risks before your surgery. If you do have complications, they can be treated by your surgeon. 

Feeling anxious

It’s normal to feel anxious about the prospect of surgery. Talk to your nurse or doctor, especially if there’s something you’re worried about or don’t understand. They will be happy to help and explain.

Giving consent for surgery

On the day before surgery you will be asked to sign a consent form with your surgeon, so make sure you have any questions ready so that they can be answered before you sign the form.

Preventing problems

A physiotherapist may show you how to do deep breathing exercises either before you go for the surgery or soon after. These will help to prevent a chest infection or blood clots after surgery. You may also be given a pair of elastic stockings to wear or receive an injection of a drug called heparin to prevent blood clots.

Your diet

Depending on the type of surgery you’re having, a dietitian may visit you and explain how best to manage eating after your surgery. If your surgery is likely to affect your ability to eat or swallow, the dietitian will explain what to expect and how to manage any difficulties. They may also advise you to take some nutrition-rich drinks and supplements to help you recover. 

Community services

If you live alone or have problems getting around at home, talk to your nurse or the medical social worker on your ward. Do this before your admission or as soon as you are admitted to the ward. That way, they can organise any community services you may need after you leave hospital. This may include visits from your local public health nurse or home help.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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