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How To Prepare For Cancer Removal Surgery

There are several things you can do to maximize your chance for a successful operation and minimize your risk for complications.

1. Ask your surgeon about your daily routines. Do you need to change your eating or exercise habits before surgery?

Stop smoking. Stopping smoking is very important to minimize your risk of lung complications following surgery. Your doctor can provide nicotine patches and refer you to smoking cessation programs to help you quit.

2. Ask about medications. Which medications do you need to take prior to surgery? Which ones should you stop taking? If you take a blood-thinning medication such as Coumadin, aspirin, or Motrin, stop taking it at least seven days before your surgery. Also, let your doctor know about any herbal preparations or vitamin/mineral supplements you take. Some of them have been associated with complications.

3. Ask your doctor about taking home an incentive spirometer. This device is effective for improving breathing immediately after surgery. No bigger than a bread-box, it is light and mobile and has a plastic tube that you blow into. Take one home and practice with it one week before your operation.

4. Carefully follow your bowel prep instructions. Proper bowel prep can minimize infection and maximize the success of your surgery. Your surgeon should provide you with step-by-step instructions. Two days prior to surgery, you'll need to begin a liquid diet as directed by your doctor. The next step involves drinking either a gallon of a lime-flavored purging liquid or several tablespoons of Fleets Phosphosoda mixed with water. In addition, your doctor will give you several antibiotic pills to complete the bowel preparation process.

5. Consider your own blood. Some people worry about receiving tainted blood in a blood transfusion during or after surgery. All donated blood is rigorously tested, so the risk of receiving tainted blood is very low, less than 0.01 percent. However, to alleviate this concern, you can donate your own blood weeks in advance of the operation or have a relative with the same blood type donate blood for you. By setting up your own (autologous) blood or a relative's donated blood, the risk' of receiving tainted blood drops to zero. Prior to your operation, ask your surgeon about the chances of requiring a blood transfusion and the feasibility of donating your own blood.

Operation Day

At the hospital on the morning of your operation, you'll be asked to fill out several admission and registration forms. Next you'll change into a hospital gown and enter the preoperative holding area, the last stop before entering the operating room. Loved ones will be able to stay with you in the holding area right up to the time you go into the operating room. Here, you'll meet the nurses and the anesthesiologist who will be involved in your operation. Your surgeon may also come by to see if you have any last-minute questions or concerns.

While you're in the preoperative holding area, an intravenous (IV) line will be started in your arm, and your medical chart will be examined for completeness. You will also be given antibiotics through the IV. Just before you enter the operating room, the anesthesiologist will give you an intravenous medicine to ease any nervousness you may have.

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