Beating bowel cancer together

Preparing for surgery

Your healthcare team will give you information on what will happen during the operation and how you can prepare for it.

This information may include:

  • What to take into hospital with you
  • Which tests you will need, to check you’re well enough for surgery
  • What food and drink you can have before and after surgery
  • Whether you need to change your diet or use medicines to empty your bowel before surgery
  • How and when you will have antibiotics to prevent infection.

Tell your specialist nurse if you will need support at home after the operation. For example, if you live alone.

Many hospitals offer an ‘enhanced recovery programme’, which aims to speed up your recovery after surgery. If your hospital has this programme, your healthcare team will give you information on how you can make sure you are in the best possible health before the operation. You will be moving around soon after the surgery and you will be more involved in your own care. 

Your healthcare team will tell you if you are likely to need a stoma. They will explain why you may need a stoma and how long you may need to have it for. A stoma nurse will show you how to look after your stoma and can answer any questions you have. 

Tips for what to take into hospital

Members of our online community have recommended the following items might be useful to pack in your hospital bag:

Sleep aids

  • eye mask
  • ear plugs with expanding foam



  • body wash
  • deodorant
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • moisturising cream
  • lip balm
  • tissues
  • nail file and hand cream
  • flannel



  • nightie/pyjamas
  • dressing gown
  • slippers
  • underwear
  • socks


Food and drink

  • chewing gum and/or peppermint tea bags
    (to relieve wind and pain)
  • snacks



  • phone
  • Kindle
  • iPad and chargers
  • double plug adaptor
  • puzzle books
  • notebook and pen
  • books
  • magazines

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