A Pre-Surgery Checklist
- It is possible to manage anxiety with breathing, meditation, and knowledge about what you are facing
- Before the procedure, wash your abdomen with a soap recommended by the surgical team
- Follow instructions around when to stop eating in advance of surgery
Debulking surgery for ovarian cancer—surgery to remove all visible tumor—can be a lengthy operation. There are several steps that women who will be undergoing this procedure can take to raise the chances of a successful outcome and easier recovery.Read More
“In the couple of days before surgery, what I tell people to do is really try to relax,” says Dr. Saketh Guntupalli, gynecologic oncologist at the Colorado University Denver School of Medicine. “They’re in for a big procedure that’s going to take a long time, and they really need to just zen out a little bit and feel at peace with everything.” Dr. Guntupalli adds that surgery and recovery can be easier for people who are able to relax beforehand.
Of course, knowing you should relax is easy, but actually being able to relax before a major surgical procedure is more difficult. Things like deep breathing exercises and meditation can be helpful, even for people who’ve never tried these things before. Online websites like Headspace can lead beginners through guided meditations to help calm an anxious mind.
Even easier, a popular breathing exercise for anxiety, called 4-7-8, can also help quiet fearful thoughts. The instructions are simple:
- Breathe out to empty your lungs
- Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale forcefully through your mouth with your lips pursed (it should make a “whoosh” sound) for 8 seconds
- Repeat these steps four times-
The entire routine will only take about a minute and a half, and you should feel more relaxed afterwards. Go through the steps again any time you feel anxious.
Practicing Good Hygiene
Surgeons clean and prep the body before any incisions are made, but patients can start doing something similar days beforehand to help prevent infection. Dr. Guntupalli recommends that people start a day or two before surgery to wash their abdominal area with a good soap like Dial or Hibiclens to disinfect the area. “We know that patients who do that have a lower risk of developing a wound infection afterwards,” he says.
Fasting The Day Before
“Generally we tell patients not to eat within 12 to 18 hours before surgery,” says Dr. Guntupalli. He explains that surgeons want the stomach to be empty before a big debulking procedure, because otherwise patients may vomit a small amount of food, and aspirate that food into their lungs. “That can be very dangerous,” he says.
Patients who take some time to manage their anxiety, keep themselves extra clean, and follow instructions for fasting will help put the odds in their favor for successful surgery and recovery.