Beating bowel cancer together

After surgery

After your operation, you will spend a few hours in a recovery room before you go back to the ward. You will have a needle in your hand or arm that is connected to a drip. You will also have a tube draining urine from your bladder (a catheter). The nurse will remove these as soon as you’re eating and drinking again. You may also have other tubes to drain fluid from the area that has been operated on.

Getting back on your feet

Your healthcare team will help you to get out of bed and start moving around as soon as possible. They will show you some leg and breathing exercises to help prevent chest infections. Compression stockings and injections to thin your blood will help to prevent blood clots.

Side effects

All treatments carry a possible risk of side effects. Your healthcare team should give you written information about the possible side effects. But they won't be able to tell you in advance which ones you will get or how long they will last.

Surgery can cause changes in how your bowel works. You can read more about this in our booklet ‘Regaining bowel control’. At your hospital appointments, your healthcare team will ask you about the side effects you're getting. You might want to keep a diary to help you remember the details.

Most side effects get better a few weeks after you finish treatment. But some people may have side effects that last longer (long term effects) or they may get new side effects later on (late effects).

Possible long-term and late side effects of surgery include:

  • Tiredness
  • Hernia
  • Bowel problems
  • sexual problems
  • Bladder problems
  • Infertility

 

Pain relief

Pain relief is very important. It will help you get up and move around comfortably and speed up your recovery. It is important to let the team know if you feel your pain is not controlled.

Stomas

If you have a stoma, your stoma care nurse will visit you on the ward. They will show you how to look after your stoma and can give you advice on what food to eat.

Managing your diet

You will be allowed to eat and drink soon after your return to the ward. Most people find that small portions of bland and low- fibre foods are easier to digest initially.

You will start to eat small portions of low fibre food soon after your operation. This will help you recover from the operation more quickly and get your bowel working again. You may have loose diarrhoea for a while after your operation. Your healthcare team can give you medicines and exercises to help.

Find more information about diet after bowel cancer treatment.

Going home

You will go home a few days after your operation. Your healthcare team will give you an appointment for an outpatient clinic before you leave hospital. You may want to take a list of questions to help you remember what you want to say. We have suggested some questions you might like to ask.

More information

Cancer Research UK has information on what happens after surgery, including a video showing breathing and circulation exercises.

 

Updated August 2018. Due for review March 2019

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