The Day of Surgery

The Day of Surgery

Patients need to be emotionally and physiologically prepared for the entire procedure on the day of the surgery. This includes making some changes in the normal food and drinks plan for the day. As a breast cancer surgery candidate, you will be expected to take care of the following aspects:

Meals and beverages – Your surgeon will ask you not to eat or drink anything at least 7-8 hours before the surgery. This is to reduce the chances of food and stomach acids to affect the working of anesthesia and to prevent nausea and vomiting during the surgical procedures.

Written consent – As per hospital rules for any surgery, all adult patients are required to sign a form whereby they agree for the treatment, fully acknowledging the associated risks and accept the process in written. This is also the case with breast cancer surgeries. The form is known as ‘informed consent’. The form may also contain a clause that you are aware of other treatment options while deciding to go for this invasive procedure for your breast cancer treatment. Irrespective of the faith that you may have in your doctor, it is wise to read the form carefully and get any point clarified by the hospital administration if you are confused.

A friend or family person – The breast cancer surgery might be an outpatient procedure in the hospital and so you will obviously need a friend to help you reach home. Support of friends and family is also good for moral strength at such times. With a loved one by your side, it will become less overwhelming to complete all the pre surgery formalities (such as filling up the informed consent form and depositing fees) and getting back home safely. After some invasive surgeries, patients need to stay in the hospital overnight. Make sure you inform the staff about the person who will accompany you in the room.

Anesthesia in operation theatre - Once you are taken to operation theatre (OT) from your room, the first step to prepare you for the surgery will be to give you the right dosage of anesthesia – this keeps you completely unaware of excision and cancer extraction, thus preventing any pain or anxiety. Patients typically meet their anesthetist a few days before the surgery and the plan for administering general anesthesia is explained to them.

As breast cancer surgery procedures are typically performed on the outside of the body’s core, over the ribcage, you may not be given very deep anesthesia. Patients undergoing a lumpectomy surgery usually get only a mild sedative that helps them to relax, along with local anesthesia that numbs the area of the body where surgery is to be performed. Some patients however get general anesthesia for lumpectomy. For mastectomy, axillary node dissection, and breast reconstruction surgeries you would always require general anesthesia.

When you are given general anesthesia for surgery, the procedure typically involves the following steps:

  • A nurse inserts a needle attached to an elongated tube - generally in your arm – and sticks it firmly in place. This is intravenous (IV) line that the medical team in OT uses to administer fluids, glucose and other medication while you are undergoing the procedure.
  • The nurse or your anesthesiologist administers a medication through the IV line and this puts you to sleep. You will be in a state of deep, relaxing and undisturbed slumber till the surgery is completed.
  • Anesthesiologist also places a mask over your nose and mouth to give anesthesia gas such as nitrous oxide or Ethrane. The purpose of this gas is to keep you asleep and completely pain free during the treatment in OT. It is the task of the anesthesiologist to keep a watch on gas given to the patient for the entire duration of the surgery.
  • The surgery team and particularly the anesthesiologist monitors your vital signs including heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing patterns throughout the operation to ensure that your body is functioning properly.

The key is to stay calm and confident.

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